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Dessert Wine Storage??

p
phyrefly44 Apr 7, 2009 09:05 AM

I just bought a few bottles of hard-to-find Moscato d'Asti online, and I'd like to stow it away for a special occasion. I'm expecting to drink it within a the next 6 to 12 months but I really don't want to lose any of it's great flavor and floral notes. Any suggestions for storage that can be easily put together without buying that much new equipment? Is the old garage refridgerator good enough?

  1. s
    SteveG Apr 9, 2009 01:35 PM

    The rest of the thread already outlines the drawbacks to storing wine in a fridge, but one cheap thing you can do to ameliorate some of them is buy terracotta sewer pipes (new!) that are just large enough in diameter to fit bottles of wine inside, and stack them in your fridge. The thermal mass of the ceramic will smooth out temperature fluctuations in the air in the fridge significantly.

    1. BernalKC Apr 7, 2009 05:27 PM

      Even for a relatively short 6-12 month hold, I would be leary of storage in a fridge. If you have a decent cellar with a reasonably stable, moderated temperature I would go that route over a fridge. In a normal fridge the temperature is constantly changing in an up-and-down sawtooth that is not optimal and can contribute to cork failures -- but it is preferable to exposing the bottle to prolonged high temperatures.

      13 Replies
      1. re: BernalKC
        invinotheresverde Apr 7, 2009 08:46 PM

        Yes, but the OP mentioned it's her garage fridge. I doubt it gets opened much at all, and that the temperature stays fairly level. Also, the higher acid and RS in the dessert wines make them a bit tougher than a normal table wine.

        OP, you'll be fine.

        1. re: invinotheresverde
          TBird Apr 8, 2009 03:29 PM

          do NOT store in fridge. no humidity ='s cork shrinkage ='s spoiled wine...

          1. re: TBird
            carswell Apr 8, 2009 07:16 PM

            For short-term or even medium-term storage, a fridge's humidity is not going to be an issue, especially if the wines are stored on their side, which keeps the corks wet. My cellar is off site and I don't have a wine fridge. Most of the whites and some of the reds I keep on hand I store on the bottom shelf of my fridge. Over the years, I've had many opportunities to compare refrigerated bottles with bottles of the same wine from my temperature and humidity-controlled cellar. There's been no discernible difference other than normal bottle-to-bottle variation. As The Oxford Companion points out, the notion of high humidity for wine storage, "like so many aspects of wine consumption rather than production, suffers from a lack of scientific research."

            1. re: carswell
              TBird Apr 8, 2009 08:11 PM

              who needs "scientific" research when i've done the math myself?

              a wine sitting in a normal fridge for 6-12 months WILL experience a failed cork.

              1. re: TBird
                carswell Apr 8, 2009 09:42 PM

                "a wine sitting in a normal fridge for 6-12 months WILL experience a failed cork."

                My more than a decade's experience indicates nothing of the sort. Not one of my refrigerated bottles -- some of which have probably spent a couple of years in the fridge -- has had a dessicated or otherwise failed cork attributable to such storage or exhibited telltale symptoms like premature oxidation. Friends who have recycled fridges into apartment wine cellars report no problems.

                If you've done the math yourself, please share it with us. Demonstrate how you know with certainty that the corks will fail within six to 12 months. Kramer, for one, says it's a myth, that high humidity is important only for wines stored in barrels. Prove him wrong.

                1. re: TBird
                  invinotheresverde Apr 9, 2009 08:35 AM

                  "a wine sitting in a normal fridge for 6-12 months WILL experience a failed cork."

                  Blame that on a shoddy cork, as I've also done this NUMEROUS times with no ill effect. Some of my wines have stayed in the extra fridge for over two years without any problems.

                  As carswell stated, the temperature of the fridge may vary somewhat, but how much does the core temp. of the wine change? I'd be shocked it if's more than three degrees. A few degrees of temperature variance is going to make no difference to the wine over a few years, let alone a few months.

            2. re: invinotheresverde
              carswell Apr 8, 2009 07:21 PM

              Between the full bottle's thermal mass and the speed at which most refrigerators return the air to the set temperature after the door has been opened and closed, I'd be surprised if a wine's temperature varies much at all with normal refrigerator use.

              1. re: carswell
                BernalKC Apr 8, 2009 09:52 PM

                The saw-tooth I was referring to has nothing to do with the door opening and closing. I assumed the fridge in the basement would rarely be opened. The problem is the way most fridges work. They sit idle until the temperature rises to whatever temperature trips its thermostat, then cool the interior until some other, lower temperature is hit. You might think this temperature swing would be small, but the smaller it is the lower the fridge's efficiency will be. This normal temperature oscillation will potentially impact a cork's seal.

                I assume that the expensive wine cellaring equipment limit this oscillation and humidify the air inside. But I haven't really looked into them.

                1. re: BernalKC
                  carswell Apr 8, 2009 10:06 PM

                  Thanks for the clarification; it appears neither invinotheresverde or I twigged to what you were referring to. That said, I'm aware of the effect. In my fridge, the range is about 4ºF. My feeling is that the temperature of the bottle varies much less and that, while this may not be ideal for long-term storage, it's not harmful over the short to medium term. (It would be interesting to stick a probe in a full bottle and graph the temperature over a few weeks.) Certainly, my own experience and that of friends indicates no problems in that area.

                  «This normal temperature oscillation will potentially impact a cork's seal.»
                  Can you explain how? Or point to sources who do?

                  1. re: carswell
                    BernalKC Apr 8, 2009 11:35 PM

                    I was afraid I'd be asked for sources. Frankly, I've heard this via word of mouth from people I trust. But I did find this via Google: http://www.winepros.org/consumerism/c...

                    >>MYTHS & DON'T-DO-ITS

                    A refrigerator is not a good place to store wine for several reasons. Refrigerators are designed for short-term cold storage; temperatures within change over a fairly wide range, every few minutes or hours. The components are engineered to drop temperature rapidly to below 50° F and not necessarily maintain it within a narrow range of a few degrees.

                    The other more serious danger of refrigerating bottles is that the temperature changes (and low humidity) will cause some corks to dry out and fail prematurely, causing wine to leak out (minor problem) and air to seep in (major problem).

                    The low temperatures reached, rapid temperature swings, and vibrations from the self-contained compressors that cycle on and off several times daily, all are harmful to wine development.

                    The only time wine should be kept in a refrigerator is after it has been uncorked. In fact, the smart way to chill wine is to put it in a bucket, filled with about 2/3 ice and 1/3 water, for 15-20 minutes (using ice by itself takes longer, because air pockets between the cubes, even if finely-crushed, insulate against the cold).<<

                    1. re: BernalKC
                      carswell Apr 9, 2009 12:40 AM

                      Thanks. My problem with such do-and-don't lists -- and there are tons of them -- is that they state all these rules as fact but provide no substantiating evidence. After a while, it starts to sound like an urban legend echo chamber, especially in light of the quite contradictory experience of myself and others. As for this particular citation, it gets several things wrong: low temperatures, even for extended periods, are not detrimental to wines (they just slow the wine's evolution, as bottles from the Swedish liquor monopoly's extremely cold cellar prove); the deleterious effect of compressor vibrations has been greatly exaggerated (even Parker is on board with this); and how can anyone take seriously such a sweeping claim as "the only time wine should be kept in a refrigerator is after it has been uncorked"?

                      Surprising that UC Davis or some other research organization hasn't studied these storage issues in depth.

                      1. re: carswell
                        BernalKC Apr 9, 2009 10:28 AM

                        The link I gave was pretty random via Google and did toss a few extra risks into the mix that I have no opinions about. My info comes from my volunteer work with wine pros in a wine competition. Word of mouth? Yes, but from truly reliable sources. I also expand on what they tell me based on my physics and engineering background. If I get a chance to pull some research references from them I'll be sure to share them here. But that probably won't be available in the near term.

                        I'll also point out that the plural of anectode is not data. Wine enclosures cannot be judged in small samples. Enclosure failure rates are surprizingly frequent -- in the 2%-5% range in our 4000+ bottle competition if my memory serves me -- and the risks I'm noting here will tend to increase those failure rates. The temperature fluctuations in a fridge don't have to bring the bottle contents to equilibrium, in fact the dis-equilibrium will tend to make the differential expansion of the wine | bottle | cork worse. The specific risk is that this differential expansion will nudge the cork in or out some small amount and thereby loosen the seal. Again, this probably won't happen for most corks, but its the marginal enclosures that you worry about.

                        What degree of increased risk is acceptible? That depends entirely on the OP's available alternatives. As I said before, a good cellaring location nestled into a cool corner of a home's foundation, far from heaters, dehumidifiers, and other motors, with a steady, cool (always below 70 and typically closer to 60) temp will be safer and better than the fridge. But if no such location is available, the fridge is probably OK.

                        1. re: BernalKC
                          p
                          phyrefly44 Apr 13, 2009 11:12 PM

                          Sorry for the late reply. This thread may have already lost it's momentum in a week, but if it changes anyone's answers:

                          My house has no cellar or basement, only a storage hole in the back of the garage that is techinically under the stairs and on the other side of the wall from a washer and dryer. Humidity is unknown but I don't expect temperatures get above 65F. It's where we shove all the xmas decor.

                          The ambient temp in the house can get up to 85 in summer and down to 55 in winter. That would only be if the wine were sitting in the middle of my living room.

                          So really, options are old garage refrigerator (opened maybe once a month, if that.) or a dark corner of the house (probably in the garage where we stash the xmas decor or the back of my closet.

          2. invinotheresverde Apr 7, 2009 11:47 AM

            The garage fridge is fine, since you're not aging the wines, you're just holdng them until you drink them. Long term, the fridge isn't ideal, but this isn't a long term scenario.

            1. njfoodies Apr 7, 2009 10:12 AM

              I keep them right in the fridge....unless they are some good stickies like SQN or a good Sauterne's, then they go in the Avanti.... -mJ

              1. m
                Maximilien Apr 7, 2009 09:51 AM

                IMO, for such a short time, keep them in a hidden closet, standing up or on their side.

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