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Jul 13, 2008 12:20 PM

Screw Capped Wine in the Fridge

I've often read in the past that refrigerating white wines in a conventional refrigerator (not a wine refrigerator) would affect the wine's quality after a month or two--for reasons never explained other than perhaps the cork might contract allowing in air (sounded unlikely.) Never really tried or bothered to confirm or deny. Does anyone have experience--and more to the point, now that quality wines have screw caps, how long could a white wine lie in the fridge before some kind of degradation occurs?

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  1. For traditionally sealed bottles of wine keeping them in the kitchen refrigerator for extensive period of time could dry out cork (your refrigerator has insufficient humidity for long term wine storage) and let the air pass through that could ultimately damage wine. But we are talking very long months not a single month or even two.

    Many wine experts also point out to occasional vibrations your refrigerator goes through when compressor kicks in. They can be harmful (or not helpful) too.

    10 Replies
    1. re: olasek

      Sorry to differ but a number of serious wine makers are either currently or considering using Stelvin caps (industry preference) -- this has been a subject passed around many wine columns (Spectator etc) and I think that a wine maker like Leitz from Rheingau would qualify as a breaking the "quality threshold." There are many others.

      The question is: if air doesn't pass through a screw cap how long might a white wine last in a refrigerator? (NB, compressor vibration might affect a red wine in a wine refrigerator if you planned to cellar it but for a white wine, it's meaningless--no tannins no problem with vibration.)

      1. re: penthouse pup

        My philosophical $0.02:

        As far as unopened wine bottles is concerned, the meaning of TIME is:

        a) a short time ( say, up to a few months ), or
        b) a long time ( many months to a few years ). or
        c) a very long time ( many years )

        a) is OK (bottle sealing method irrelevant).
        b) and c) are not OK.

        1. re: RicRios

          I've read a lot of books on wine and the standard advice is to store them at 55 degrees in a dark, still environment because excessive heat or vibrations are harmful. But are you aware of any empirical studies that have actually determined the effect of colder (like regular refrigerator) envriornments on wine, as well as the effect of the vibrations from the normal compressor cycling of a refrigerator on wine? I know that many of the chateaus and estates in France naturally maintain that temperature, but does that necessarily mean it is the best? Reducing temp intuitively tells me it will slow down the development, but is that truly harmful to wine? I've never seen any studies on this.

          1. re: monkuboy

            Again, for SHORT times ( up to a few months ), fridge is harmless.
            Longer times it's another story.
            Empirical studies? Sure, my fridge!

            1. re: RicRios

              So you have actually conducted experiments that demonstrate to you that keeping wines in the fridge a long time is harmful to them? I'm not trying to be a wise guy or anything, but I really have not read anything that discussed concrete effects of lower than cellar temps on wine for long periods of time.

              1. re: monkuboy

                Kind'a, in a wino's sort of way:

                I've conducted experiments that demonstrated that keeping wines in the fridge for a short time is not harmful to them.

                1. re: monkuboy

                  People have been making wine now for over 2000 years. It has been determined over this time that 55 is close to ideal temperature for wine storage. Any departure from this makes conditions "less than ideal", the more you depart the "less ideal" it becomes. Now you can keep splitting hair whether "less than ideal" means the same as "harmful".

                  1. re: olasek

                    I don't mean to annoy you, but during those 2000 years what chance has wine had to develop at lower than 55 degree temps? The storage areas of the major winemaking regions are naturally that temperature, as before electricity they were at the mercy of the elements. Does anyone really know what happens to wine stored at, say something like 45 degrees? I would imagine it just slows down the development process. But again, I've never read the results of any experiments like this.

                    1. re: monkuboy

                      >> but during those 2000 years what chance has wine had to develop at lower than 55 degree temps?

                      I think people had more opportunity, were more resourceful than you give them the credit for. France definitely experienced winters, many caves were probably at less than 55 for prolonged periods of time, people also used "natural" refrigeration with collected/transported ice well before advent of modern household electricity and trade/transport for sure moved bottles of wines to more northern geographical locations, different countries. Lets not dismiss all this trial&error accumulated knowledge over centuries and reduce the whole thing to modern "studies" published in some scientific paper (I frankly wonder if any scientist would consider the topic worthy pursuit).

                    2. re: olasek

                      Actually, that 55 F is for wines, that you plan on aging optimally, and also plan on drinking.

                      If one were to purchase a great 1er Cru Bdx, with hopes of selling it, then 45 F might be better. If one were inclined to drink these same wines with "optimal aging," (whatever that means to one), then 65 F would not be out of the question.

                      This is predicated on a dark, constant temp. It all depends on what one is looking for. In very general terms, a wine will "age" less quickly at 45 F, and more quickly at 65 F. For the long haul, 55 F has been chosen for the chemical interactions and the ultimate time for things to interact. Longer can be good, but shorter can be better - depending on what the owner of the wine wants from it.

                      Very subjective and dependant on a lot of factors.


        2. Penthouse Pup,

          Have not tried Stelvin for any period of time. At the most, our whites, under Vac-u-vin, or Stelvin, only last a day, or two, at the most.

          So far, have not noticed any change, but I'm talking days, not even weeks.


          2 Replies
          1. re: Bill Hunt

            Dear Bill,
            I use Vac-u-vin as well just for a few days...but the original point behind my question was about unopened wines. In the old days...ha ha...we frequently (and perhaps correctly) were told that a bit of air seeping through the cork as a wine rested (usually red) contributed to the desirable changes that we look for in those with aging potential. Now that many wineries are toying with Stelvin screw caps, for both red and white, wherefore the ever-so-slight seepage? Maybe screw caps are not totally impermeable...I don't know. And perhaps the chemistry of the alterations are more about slight volatility driven by tannins within the bottle itself. I bet UC Davis has done some kind of research...In any event, for those of us with limited space, using a conventional fridge to store unopened white wines rather than taking up room in the wine refrigerator seems more of a viable option than it used to be.

            1. re: penthouse pup

              Penthouse Pup,

              This aspect has been heavily debated. That jury seems to still be out. Some producers of bigger, age-worthy reds, eschew Stelvin. Some are getting on board. Most of the Stelvin (or similar) that I have encountered, have been on "drink now" whites.

              I have some Plumpjack Reserve Cab, under Stelvin, but have not cracked the seal yet.

              Now, I am a bit of a "purist," and appreciate the whole tableau of the Cork. However, I have yet to have a "corked" white under Stelvin. Time will tell, regarding the aging of wines, white and red, under these closures. With Stelvin, in the limited samplings, that I have done, there has never been a negative - except for the time that I ruined a foil-cutter, on a Stelvin, that I did not realize WAS a Stelvin (or similar)... It just did not look like a screw-cap. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

              For 'fridge storage, I think they are perfectly fine, and often just tightly reseal the cap, but that's only until the next evening.