How to Keep Wine, for a Day or a Decade


For our tenth wedding anniversary, I wanted to get my husband, Bryan, a sweet gift to show how much I’m looking forward to the next 10. Also, we love wine. So, I splurged on a bottle of Bordeaux from Château Margaux, which is in a part of France we’ve visited. To help it age nicely (so we can enjoy it together on our 20th), I turned to an expert to find out how best to store wine…

First, I needed some help picking out the bottle, so I put my trust, and $100-ish price limit, in my local wine store, whose clerks know (all too well) our preferences and buying habits. If you’re thinking of a long-term wine purchase too, try to get some advice from a seller who knows which wines from which vineyards will become finer with age and which won’t.

My gift was a big success. Bryan loved it, uttering a dude-like, “This is AWESOME,” and immediately grabbing his Wine Bible to nerdily read up on it. We tucked it away on its side in one of our tiny kitchen’s cabinets, where we hope it will keep well and we aren’t tempted to grab it on a random Wednesday night. And where we seriously hope our toddler can’t get to it.

Holding on to a bottle for 10 years seems simple enough, but now, halfway into its stored life, I’ve been wondering if I could do a better job of preserving it. Do the temperatures in my New York apartment vary too much? Also, instead of 10 years, what about 10 days? We share bottles over dinner on our little balcony all summer but sometimes we don’t finish them the same night. What are the rules for keeping everyday wine fresh at home?

I called Holly Anderson, the director of national sales for Napa Valley’s Vineyard 29, which is known for its Cabernets and state-of-the-art winery. Holly is a fan of sentimental wine purchases. When her daughter was born six years ago, she painstakingly researched the best bottles to save for her to drink on her twenty-first birthday and wedding day. “I want my girl to be able to drink wines as old as her at the major milestones in her life,” Holly said. Plus, she pointed out, it’s way more cost and time efficient to buy and save than to track down a 2009 bottle in 2030.

The key to storing wine, Holly told me, is to keep it in a cool, dark place. Fluctuating temperatures and too much light can destroy a wine, turning it into a vinegary brew. Not everyone knows this, but many local wine stores will keep your special bottles for a fee, or, if it’s just one, they may be kind enough to find a free spot. That’s an ideal storage scenario, but if you can’t swing it, she recommends purchasing a local secondhand wine fridge for less than $100 on Craigslist.

But what if, I asked, you live in a small place with no room for a wine fridge, or just have no interest in getting one? Think of the coolest, darkest place in your house, she suggests — a high shelf in a dark closet, for example — and store it there. Keep it in its box, if it has one, to block out light. (Funnily enough, a friend of Holly’s keeps a case of wine in his office’s computer server room because it’s so consistently cool and dark.)

Whatever you do, know this: Regular refrigerators, are too cold for long-term storage. Plus, Holly says, “You’ll see it every day and you’ll probably just drink it!” And don’t keep the bottle standing upright, Holly advises. Wines should be stored long-term on their side with the cork angled downward, or upside down in their box. Keeping the cork in contact with liquid prevents it from drying out, shrinking and letting air in.

So, now that I’m moving my 20-year bottle out of the kitchen… what about the Pinot Noir sitting on the counter from this week that’s 1/2 full? An open bottle of wine is like a half-eaten apple left out on the counter. As soon as it’s exposed to air, it starts slowly going bad. Generally, though, the experts say that if it still tastes OK to you, it’s fine and safe to drink.

Here are seven more tips for optimal storage of everyday wine:

Red lasts longest. The bigger and bolder the wine, the longer it will keep. Five days is a good outer limit for any opened red. Keep it corked in a cool room, or at least not next to a hot stove.

Chill it out. Storing an opened bottle of red in the fridge isn’t ideal, but it can be helpful to put it in there for a few minutes before serving. “Adding a little chill to a red will hide some flaws,” Holly says, if it’s been open for a few days. (It’s fine to store corked white wine in the fridge for a few days while you’re finishing it.)

Drink whites even faster. Whites are tougher than reds to preserve. If it’s the fruity, crisp, fresh taste you like about white wine, then Holly says to prepare yourself: that aspect of white wine is the first thing to deteriorate, within a couple days of opening.

Upright is right. Storing short-term bottles upright is just fine, and it’s practical: an open bottle stored upright is less likely spill.

Finish the bubbly. Champagne and other sparkling wines will lose its fizz quickly. Try to drink those bottles the day you open them, Holly warns. (Within a day or so, you can try the raisin trick to jump start fading bubbles.)

Skip the gadgets. There are a ton of wine preservation doodads out there, including pricey options that promise months of preservation. Most of these are not the panaceas you’re looking for, though. But if you’d like to try something, Holly recommends argon gas cartridge systems. They’re relatively inexpensive and can help keep open bottles tasting great for a couple more days.

When in doubt, cook. Once a wine has seen better days, it can still be used for cooking! Consider it part of your spice rack. A several-day-old bottle of red was flavoring Holly’s carnitas the night we spoke, and she also likes using leftover dry white wine for risotto, or red for deglazing a pan-seared chicken breast instead of broth. Yum!

Do you have a special-occasion bottle you’re holding on to? (Now we’re inspired to get one!) What are your tips for storing wine? We love these wine stoppers.

P.S. 11 ideas for hostess gifts and 7 tips for ordering the perfect glass of wine.

Erin Geiger Smith lives in New York and writes a series for Cup of Jo on wine, beer and cocktails. She contributes to many publications, including the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

(Photo by Henri Cartier Bresson, Paris, 1954.)

  1. Moriah Spicer says...

    This is an excellent post! I work for a wine auction house in Chicago called Hart Davis Hart and we take wine storage very seriously. It makes no sense to buy a special bottle of wine if you’re not going to store it properly. We work on consignment, meaning that we sell wine from individual’s private collections, and the first questions we ask are about the provenance and storage of the wines. If the wines haven’t been stored properly (temperature and humidity control, in most instances) then we don’t even consider the wine for consignment. It is so, SO important.

    Also, I think it’s interesting to note that natural wines are really a lot more sensitive to temperature. When my boyfriend and I are driving up to my parents’ farm for the weekend we won’t leave the wine in the car for too long (like for lunch, or something like that) because even just a couple of hours in a hot car can cook the wines.

    Great post!

  2. anna dicicco says...

    love your idea!my tenth wedding anniversary is coming up on October and my husband loves wine. Would you mind telling me the wine you ended up buying for your husband?

  3. Really great advice, thanks!
    I enjoy a glass of wine all too often but have never done my research regarding the best way to store it and make it last…now that I’m looking to buy a house hopefully I can start building up my stocks in an educated manner : )

  4. Thanks for these tips! I’ve always like wine, but I was recently diagnosed with celiac disease and can’t drink beer anymore, so I am getting much more interested in wine!

  5. Samantha says...

    Loved this post! So informative. My dad has a 1993 bottle of Yarden, an Israeli wine. Yarden also happens to be my jewish name. It’s his favorite wine but I haven’t tried it in forever, only had a couple sips when I was younger. He says he plans to save it for my wedding but we live in the hottest country (Dominican Republic) and now I’m wondering wether it’ll be drinkable or not. Either way, it’ll be a really nice touch and I’m glad he had the gesture to keep the bottle.

  6. Mariana says...

    I have seen my dad do this trick to bubbly drinks throughout the years: stick a fork inside the bottle with its wider side hanging out. It’s supposed to make it bubbly for a few days :)

  7. Gabriella says...

    A really great tip that I learned from a friend and have put to the test myself: when you have an open bottle of champagne (or prosecco, etc.) hang a tea spoon in it and store open in the fridge. I know it sounds crazy and I have no idea how it works, but you will still have an amazing amount of bubbles the next (few) day(s).


  8. Yes! Thank you for this! We’re not big drinkers in our house but wine is a key ingredient in so many recipes. I’ve thrown out so many bottles because I opened a bottle for one recipe and didn’t need the same red for a few days later. I was definitely being too safe (and wasteful, apparently).

  9. I just laughed out loud at the tip not to store wine next to a hot stove. Oops! My husband and I will need to find another area in our tiny kitchen ;)

    Danielle | D is for Dreamer

    • Joanna Goddard says...


  10. Jenna says...

    Thank you for this info. My husband bought a bottle of wine to celebrate the day we got married and have been holding on to it so we can toast our 10 year anniversary (in two more years). Its been sitting in the kitchen, upright for the last few years. Hope I haven’t ruined it! Moving it to a cool, dark place right now!

  11. My Dad opened a bottle of wine he’d been saving for YEARS when my then-fiance and I announced our engagement…it was the colour of tea and smelled like dirty drain water…it was HILARIOUS. Instead of drinking this fancy bottle of wine we all sat around daring each other to take sips…and then my mum produced a bottle of Moet and it was all fine again!!
    So yes, storage is important!!

  12. Hannah says...

    We don’t have much room for gadgets in our little London kitchen, but I LOVE the vacu vin pump my mum and dad gave us for Christmas (along with some lovely bottles of wine they knew we wouldn’t ever treat ourselves to). It isn’t pricey, but does (I think) a good job of keeping wine fresh for at least a few days.

    • Holly says...

      Yeah! We love our Vacu Vin too. After we got it, I mayyyy have polished off a cab sealed for 6 days. Tasted fine and I have not noticed any intestinal parasites :)

  13. Ally says...

    I’m holding on to the last bottle of wine that was gifted to me by my late aunt. It’s a bottle of one of our favorites; it feels inappropriate to drink it on an ordinary day so I’m keeping it for something special.
    It’s been standing straight up in the back of my closet. Now I’ll have to turn it on its side!

  14. Kelly says...

    Erin, do you have any advice for selling wine? We have more wine (a fairly nice collection from what I understand) than we know what to do with, by way of my boyfriend’s father. There are literally crates of it in the closet, the wine fridge is full, and we’re really beer drinkers. Any thoughts? I’ve been driving myself nuts over how to get rid of it, and my boyfriend would rather see it sold than anything else. How do I make sure we’re not ripped off, or that I don’t spend my whole life selling wine a bottle at a time?

    Love your take on all things drinkable!

  15. My husband works in the wine industry, and he swears by his Coravin:

    He’s able to pull a taste from an expensive or rare wine to sample for a client without opening the bottle (it uses a needle to go through the cork and then replaces the wine’s volume with CO2), and then he’s able to store that bottle for months with no change in taste or character. It’s also super useful for personal wine that we’ve stored, so he can try a taste and see if it’s “ready” to drink. Coravin swears that you can keep sampled wine for years using this method, but we haven’t made it that long. Kinda neat for wine nerds!

  16. Isabella says...

    One thing I learned in my wine studies classes: if you’re going to put the cork back into an opened bottle, be sure to put it back in the way it was (that is, the end that was in the bottle goes back in first). The outside of a cork can have spoilage microbes on it, so if you flip the cork and put the outside in, you’ve contaminated your wine and it may spoil faster.

    Also, if you’re planning on storing wine for some years, keep in mind that most “new-world” wines, at least those made out here in California, aren’t made to age the way they used to be, but are intended to be drunk fairly soon. California reds aren’t released with the high tannin content of wines from, say, Bordeaux, and it’s the tannins that help to preserve the wine during years of storage, and that slowly dissipate and mellow over time.

  17. What a fun post to be a part of! When you finally do open those special bottles, gluing the corks into a shadow box with a pretty pin noting the occasion is a great way to preserve the memory. The corks from the champagne shared when I found out I was pregnant and the champagne DRANK after I had my girl hangs proudly in her room.

  18. jeannie says...

    This was an awesome post! I am totally inspired to buy some wine for my grandchildren’s 21st birthdays now.

  19. Stephanie says...

    My dad bought a Bordeaux when I was born in 1984 and kept it a secret from EVERYONE, even my mom, until my wedding day. He unveiled it during the toast he was giving and told the story to all of our friends and family. People are still talking about that wedding toast five years later.

    • What an amazing story! My parents had a humongous bottle of Teachers whiskey in our living room, all my life. They got it as a wedding gift in 1983. 32 years later, the “Teachers” branding font is still the same! LOL

      I do not know if they have opened it yet. The last time i saw it, it had reduced… i was told that it evapoated.

  20. Thanks so much for the tips! A friend gave me a few bottles of red left over from her wedding reception. Although I don’t care too much for the taste, carnitas marianted in wine sounds divine.

    And thanks, also, @Julie for the aerator recommendation!

  21. Auste says...

    At our engagement party our friends presented us with two bottles of wine: one to drink just before wedding day (to calm our nerves) and one to keep for our ten year anniversary. I’m glad our storage solution (in its box on a high shelf in the storage closet) is ok! Though I’ll be looking into a wine fridge, too:)

  22. Joanna Goddard says...

    alex’s mom actually bought a bottle of red wine DECADES ago, planning to save it until the birth of her first grandchild. as alex’s older siblings grew older and didn’t have children for one reason or another, she started worrying that she would never get to drink the wine. finally, when toby was born, she printed out his newborn photo, put it in a frame in her kitchen, and opened the bottle! she sent the cutest photos of her sipping it :)

    • ashley says...

      that’s adorable. i’ve never actually thought to do this, but my guess is that kept correctly wine keeps much better than say…cake! :)

  23. My dad purchased a bottle of Dom Perignon in 1985, the year I was born, for me to celebrate with on my 21st birthday. On my 21st birthday I was gifted the champagne, but saved it to drink with my sister on her 21st (we’re 5 years apart)… then we decided to save it to drink when I got married. I got married last September (at 29 yrs) and we opened the bottle right before the wedding as a family, along with my (now) husband. It was so exciting to open a 29 year old bottle of champagne, but bllleeech… the champagne tasted like an old shoe! Obviously champagne doesn’t age well (drink it within a year or 2 I think). But it didn’t matter, we had plenty of other good wines and champagnes to drink, and what really mattered was the sentimental value. My dad stored the bottle in his closet for about 25 years, which I think is pretty amazing.

    • Marisa says...

      …and you know what’s weird? That was exactly 30 years ago, because yesterday was my birthday ;0

  24. Luckily we have a built in wine cooler in our apartment which is a big boon as we love wine. But all her tips are bang on!!

  25. What a great idea! Now I’m thinking what part of my house is best to store a wine for a long time…very interesting.
    Regarding the everyday wine I definitely do the “when in doubt, cook” tip. Being of Spanish/Italian descent all my red sauces get the obligatory splash of red wine! Gives them such a nice taste!


  26. Thank you for sharing tips about how long to keep opened wine – I’ve always wondered. Super helpful! :)

  27. My bf and I have always wanted to do this! A couple we knew recommended it but they said buy a few bottles! You’re saving it for so many years, might as well have a little party when you crack it open :)

  28. Cynthia says...

    We too are collecting wine for our grandchildren’s 21st birthday celebrations. The vintage for their birth year is released about two years later, so we make a point of tasting wines sometime between their second and third birthdays and selecting a nice vintage that will lay down for 19 years. With three grandbabies and two more on the way, a significant part of our cellar storage will be earmarked for future parties…whether we live to be a part of them or not! Naturally I am making tags for each child’s wine as there are multiple bottles per. Very fun to look forward to!

  29. This post makes me very happy! Josh and I did the wine box thing at our wedding (two years ago two days ago!) and the wine is resting on its side, sealed in a wood box in a dark, cool room. I can’t wait to open it 10 years from now!

    Her Heartland Soul

  30. Emma says...

    I’ve also heard you can actually freeze unfinished wine! Never tried it (never needed to! ha!) but I imagine you could defrost it and use it for cooking, at the very least.

    • Kate says...

      This is what we do! If by chance we have an unfinished bottle, or we open a bottle that may have gone south to our tastes, we pour the remnants in a tupperware container and stash in our freezer. When a recipe calls for wine, there is no need to use our good drinking wine for cooking, we just pull out our frozen stash!

      But really, the question is here: How often does a bottle of wine go unfinished?

  31. Deborah says...

    Our very good friends gave us a case of beautiful wine as a wedding gift. They are wine aficionados with a proper storage system – whereas we move from city to city (& continent to continent!) every couple of years. So, our friends are storing our wedding wine and giving us a bottle every year on our anniversary. It’s a gift that keeps on giving and it’s also a great reason to see each other at least once a year despite our long-distance friendship. A win-win!

    • Taylor says...

      Wow, this is a beautiful wedding gift!! And what a treat to see your friends and re-live such a special day each year. Filing this away in the ‘good ideas’ drawer :).

    • Laura says...

      That is so thoughtful! What a wonderful gift.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is so sweet!!

    • It is NOT in your head. I took a wine class a few years ago with a sommelier, and she told us that she has always been very vocal about being against all wine gadgets — including aerators — until one of her students convinced her to actually try it. It blew her mind! Now she brings it to class so she can open up a brand new red wine (there was a LOT of drinking in this class) and give us each two tastings: 1 poured directly from the bottle, and 1 poured through the aerator. It an experiment that any lover of wine should try, because it really illustrates the importance of oxygen in opening up the flavor and complexity of wine.

      Anyone who says there is no difference if you aerate or not is a liar OR knows absolutely nothing about wine.

    • Granted, I have not tried the aerator on OLD wines — only wines straight out of the bottle. I am skeptical about it making nasty wine taste good, but I would be willing to try it on one that seems to be a day or two past its prime.

  32. Love this helpful post! My husband and I love wine, but haven’t always been sure how to store a good bottle or how long to keep it once it’s open!

  33. Bethany R says...

    Holly’s idea to buy wine for her daughter’s 21st birthday and wedding? That’s one of the sweetest gifts I’ve ever heard!

    • Erin Geiger Smith says...

      I loved Holly’s idea, too! My son is already one, but I assume he won’t be too concerned I started his collection late!