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May 23, 2011 02:07 PM

Storing wine w/o wine cellar or wine fridge

As some of you know I will be living in LA in a few months. Will of course be sampling a lot of wines. Old world and new (Napa Valley, Sonoma). Will be staying at a friends home. No wine cellar nor temp controlled wine fridge. Can I store a botte in a typical fridge laying on it's back? Might invest in a bottle of CH. Margaux. So it might be in the fridge for almost 9 months. Bad idea? Should I just wait to buy a bottle just before I'm about to head home?

I suppose storing bottles in a typical kitchen fridge for a few days at a time between drinking is alright?

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  1. Your only real concern is the cork. Low fridge temps won't damage the wine, but the low humidity may dry the cork and allow seepage/oxidation to occur. Hard to calculate the risk. And there's always a risk with corks regardless of how well the bottles are stored. I'd wait as long as possible to make the purchase, or simply have the retailer store it for you (I'm assuming you trust this retailer to properly store ALL wines). I would be an absolute stickler for provenance when it comes to a bottle as pricey as a Ch. Margaux. Wine is too easily damaged, even a red Bordeaux which isn't quite so fragile as many wines.

    Leftover wine SHOULD ALWAYS be kept in the fridge as cool storage is the best approach for preservation. Basically, you're slowing down the oxidation process as these chemical reactions occur much more slowly at low temps. But several days? Even a wine with an enormous amount of stuffing would start losing it after about 3 days. That said, many wines - particularly young reds - will show better on the second day.

    1. The SERIOUS problem with a "typical kitchen fridge" is the vibration. Wines are sensitive to temperature, to light, and to vibration. I would not store wines in a refrigerator for any length of time; not only is it too cold, but vibration is potentially harmful.

      Think of it this way: the ideal storage is 55F (12.7C) and 58% humidity. The farther away you get from that, the greater the potential harm the wine is exposed to.

      Also, the more expensive the wine is, the more you want to protect it from harm.

      Why do you want to buy a bottle of Château Margaux anyway? Just curious.

      37 Replies
      1. re: zin1953

        Zin, I agree with all you say, but I alway wonder when I'm buying that expensive bottle. How much vibration and temperature change did that wine go through in shipping. A ship from Europe surely has vibration. A truck from California certainly has vibration. I'm not even going to discuss the temperature changes wine must go through during shipping. A lot of it has to do with "Lady Luck". I don't really think wine is as fragile as made out. A lot of it is to add to the mystique of the sacred grape.

        Just my observation after many years of enjoying wine.

        1. re: CocoDan

          Actually, I think wine IS as fragile as is made out . . .

          "Bottle sickness" is induced primarily through shipping. Thus the suggestion that any wine "right off the boat" (or truck) be allowed to "rest" before consumption. If you were to -- as I have -- try the same vintage of Bordeaux, for example, in Los Angeles, in London, and at the château within a single year, you would taste three remarkably different wines. The only difference between the three bottles was the distance they were shipped. The differences are more obvious in older wines -- only makes sense -- but can indeed be observed in younger wines as well. The bottle opened at the château/domaine/winery will be more youthful in appearance, tighter and more immature; the bottle that traveled the farthest will mature sooner and may in fact be over-the-hill (or on its last legs) justas the château bottle is just hitting its plateau.

          I've also noticed this phenomena in the California wines I imported BACK into the US from Europe. Bottles of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon that were exported to the EU that I brought back for sale here in the States were definitely more mature than bottles that never left the state.

          As for temperature variations, these too are harmful, of course, but this is why we ONLY used ***working*** temperature-controlled containers for shipping wine into the US, as well as temperature-controlled semis for shipments out of Northern California . . .

          / / / / /

          Dan, in the FWIW mode, I don't subscribe to the "mystique of the sacred grape." Indeed, I spent my entire career in the wine trade trying to DEmystify that sort of $#! -- it used to drive me crazy. Still does.


          1. re: zin1953

            Does that mean we should not buy old world wines and just wait till we make our trips to France? Being that we don't know if the wines were shipped to the US or Canada always in temperature controlled "containers"?

            1. re: BDD888

              Good information. Thankfully, I'm lucky enough to have a very small, but reasonably well controlled wine cellar, and it does work well. I still think about how the well the wine was handled before I bought it. I do buy from reputable retailers, but a lot of people handle it before they get it. I'm sure I worry more than I need to. Too fussy!

              1. re: BDD888

                By the way, I buy wine for drinking, not for storing.

                1. re: BDD888

                  >>> Does that mean we should not buy old world wines and just wait till we make our trips to France? <<<

                  Where did I say that?

                  I cannot speak for Canadian imports, in that I have no idea how the LCBO, for example, imports their wines, and that would -- for example -- compare to the way authorities in BC would do it. I can only speak for how some US importers with whom I am familiar import their wines.

                  Presented in the "More-Than-You-Ever-Wanted-to-Know" Dept.:

                  There are several methods used for shipping wines across the ocean. Let's skip air freight, and focus on wines being transported from Europe into the US via ocean freight.

                  -- Some importers will use "dry boxes," simple 40' containers devoid of any temperature control or insulation.
                  -- Some will use dry boxes, but may line the container with styrofoam, or add a thermal insulation blanket to cover the wine. This will provide limited insulation against temperature fluctuations.
                  -- Some will use "insulated boxes," typically defined as "reefers" (temperature-controlled containers) but with the temperature control switched off. These will provide greater insulation than a dry box with a thermal blanket.
                  -- Some will use *working* temperature-controlled containers (i.e.: "reefers" which are fueled and turned on for the entire journey, keeping the wine at temperature via a thermostatically controlled system.

                  I would never use a dry box, or an dry box with a thermal blanket. If you are crossing the Atlantic from, say, the Port of Bordeaux to the East Coast of the US in the dead of winter, a non-working reefer MIGHT be fine -- especially if you specify (and pay extra for) the container to be stored below the water line. OTOH, I would *never* ship this way during a) the late spring, summer, or fall; or b) any time of year to a West Coast port, as the wine has to transit the Panama Canal.

                  Every ocean-going wine shipment I ever imported was on a *working* reefer. Every shipment of wine that went out on a semi from the Napa Valley winery I used to work for to any destination out-of-state went out on a temperature-controlled truck.

                  In terms of knowing what companies use what shipping methods, it's pretty easy to find out. Many companies will make it a point to loudly proclaim they use working reefers, that all their shipments are temperature controlled. Others . . . not so much.

                  Honestly, it's very easy to find out.

                  1. re: zin1953

                    Ok good to know. Should I make that trip to Bordeaux and visit Margaux as well and find a vintage I want to buy a case of and ship back. Being as CH like CH Margaux will have many customers wanting to buy by the case to ship home I bet they have some kind of service setup long ago. Same for other CH or winery in Eu.

                    And I know you didn't say that. I was just asking. :) Good to know though that that is how wines are shipped. Dry or in a temp controlled reefer.

                2. re: zin1953

                  I've experienced travel shock on bottles after returning to the East Coast from California, but of course there are myriad reasons why bottles would show differently on different occasions from simple bottle variation to our individual moods to the phases of the moon. Yeah, to my great consternation I've even experienced the latter, which was almost as discomfitting as my realization that different glassware can have a profound, repeatable, and consensus effect on the taste of a particular wine.

                  And so I cannot but agree that minor influences - such as vibration - can have noticeable effects. And some wines are certainly more fragile than others such as the sans souffre cuvees like the "NS" Lapierre Morgons that Kermit Lynch only imports to sell out of his Berkeley store (fearing both travel and the less than optimal storage conditions at many retailers).

                  BDD, I think the upshot is this: know who you're buying from. Don't get a Ch. Margaux that's been standing up in a refrigerator unit at some grocery store (I saw this with DRC La Tache, Richebourg, and other highly covetable bottles at a prestigious gourmet Houston grocery on a recent visit). Rather, go to a long-standing retailer who's earned the trust of clientelle over many, many years and who you trust to store it properly until you're ready to pick it up. Then, allow that bottle to rest in a proper environment after you return to ward off travel shock. And, of course, stand it up several days to a week before drinking and properly decant for sediment.

                  Finally, drink it on a fruit day! ;)

                  BTW, are you looking for the great 2000 vintage (or maybe 2005), or for an earlier, more matured and ready-to-drink vintage?

                  1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                    Yes. I was aiming for a year 2000 vintage or 2005...seems those are the only available online. And there's the rub...I don't know these wine stores. So I have no idea how they are stored. Properly or improperly. Though, the e-stores I've looked at claim they stock a lot of "hi-end" I'd assume they are stored properly (e.g. temperature controlled, on their sides...etc.).

                    If I really want to try a Ch. Margaux maybe I'll just buy it locally in Toronto. Less travel (e.g. from LA to need to store it in a closet...heh). From the LCBO or VIntages. Or some Toronto wine specialty shop (Charles Yu? Can you recommend a few?).

                    Thanks for all your input guys. Learning a lot. Getting a better picture. Great advice.

                    1. re: BDD888

                      Don't assume. You'll only be disappointed.

                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                          Suppose it would be best to buy in-person so I can have a look at how they are stored. If I'm going to invest a grand on a bottle of Bordeaux. Even if they are some of SoCal's better wine stores. Giving me a chance to be familiar with the store and the sales staff too rather than possibly taking my chances ordering online just to save a trip to the store.

                          1. re: BDD888

                            IF . . . and it's a big "if" . . .

                            IF you go to a "serious" wine merchant, with a professional sales staff, they can be an invaluable source of information and assistance -- regardless of whether you're looking for a $10,000 bottle of Bordeaux or a $10 bottle of Chilean Cabernet, and everything in between. Stores like K&L, the Wine House, Wine Country, and others take the time and effort to TRAIN their staff, to taste them on many of the wines they have in stock, and they can be very helpful in assisting you in selecting the perfect wine.

                            Buying wine from an LA retailer while you are (temporarily) in LA means you not only have to pay sales tax -- the US equivalent of VAT -- but also shipping charges.


                            1. re: zin1953

                              I guess I'll stick with those 3 shops since I'm not familiar with LA wine shops. I was going to visit K&L anyway.

                              I was considering visiting Gil Turner's on Sunset as well.

                              Shipping charges? Even if I'm buying in-person??

                              1. re: BDD888

                                OK, I edited the post above. It now says

                                >>> Buying wine online from an LA retailer while you are (temporarily) in LA means you not only have to pay sales tax -- the US equivalent of VAT -- but also shipping charges. <<<

                                Why on earth would you EVER go to Gil Turner's????

                                1. re: zin1953

                                  Is there any reason why I shouldn't got to GT's?? :)

                  2. re: CocoDan

                    CocoDan. That's why I asked. Was wondering how detrimental storing a bottle in a fridge really is. I mean most people (not wine affianodos) probably do store their wines in the fridge. Either because they don't know any better or just don't believe they would notice change in taste due to oxidation. Vibration in the fridge...etc. I think most just assume as long as it's cold....

                    I'll hold off on buying that expensive bottle of CH Margaux. Till just before I'm about to head back to Toronto. And the reason I'm buying one is to see if I can taste the difference between a $100 bottle of Bordeau from maybe a new world producer and one from one of the most revered. Is there something about the bottle of Chateau Margaux that tastes noticeably better? Or will it just taste like another bottle of Bordeaux from another producer?

                    It's like...if you've been driving a BMW M series and always wondered what it would be like to drive a Ferrari. You assume it drives MUCH better in all respects but exactly how? Perhaps with wines it's not as apparent....I think I'm on the "Quest". (that list RM mentioned in my other thread).

                    As for the many other bottles I'll be sampling in LA...Storing them in the fridge for a few days should be fine. I'd be the only wine drinker in the house. And I doubt I'll be polishing off one bottle at one sitting every time. If at any time. :)

                    1. re: BDD888

                      >>> Was wondering how detrimental storing a bottle in a fridge really is. I mean most people (not wine affianodos) probably do store their wines in the fridge. Either because they don't know any better or just don't believe they would notice change in taste due to oxidation. Vibration in the fridge...etc. I think most just assume as long as it's cold.... <<<

                      "Cold" is NOT what wine needs, nor have I ever hear of anyone -- be they "into" wines or not -- storing their wines in a kitchen-type refrigerator. Honest. The classic advice is "cool (not cold), dark, quiet" and "on their side" to keep the cork from drying out (not an issue with screwcaps, obviously). Unless you live in the desert, the most common place to store your wine is in an interior hall closet, on the floor, on its side.

                      Actually, I think the most common place for non-wine people to store their wines is in a wine rack in the kitchen, where the bottles are subjected to light and heat. Then again, since something like 90-95% of all wine purchased within the US is consumed within seven days of purchase, where a wine gets stores is often a moot point.

                      >>> the reason I'm buying one is to see if I can taste the difference between a $100 bottle of Bordeau from maybe a new world producer and one from one of the most revered. Is there something about the bottle of Chateau Margaux that tastes noticeably better? Or will it just taste like another bottle of Bordeaux from another producer? <<<

                      Wouldn't it be less expensive to simply buy a glass of high-end wine in a restaurant, and compare it side-by-side to a similar wine?

                      Part of what drives prices skyward is quality, but part of what drives it -- especially over the past 25-30 years -- is hype.

                      As far as automobiles are concerned, I have no doubt that some -- perhaps only a handful, but nonetheless, some people will prefer to drive the BMW M-series. Why? Because. It just SEEMS to FEEL better . . . . no matter how concrete the numbers advantage of the Ferrari -- more HP, more torque, higher top speed, faster from 0-60 mph, etc. -- to some drivers, they will just like the way the BMW "feels." In other words, there is something subjective that will, ultimately, be the deciding factor.

                      This is even more the case with wine . . . it is almost purely subjective. You enjoy the smell, the mouthfeel, the taste of X over Y. Someone else has just the opposite preference. Which one of you is right? wrong? Neither. You are both right: for you, X is clearly better; for the other person, Y is clearly superior. And someone else might dislike both of them . . . .

                      The differences between two quality châteaux in the same region (be it Margaux, St.-Émilion, Pessac, whatever) -- given grapes from the same vintage, similar grape composition, and no major screwups by the winemaker -- will be quite subtle. I'm not talking Château Margaux ($$$) versus Mouton-Cadet ($), but say two classified château -- one in the $40-50 range, and the other in the $100-125 range. The more experienced one's palate, the easier it is to discern the subtle differences.

                      Once the wine is open: store it in the fridge. If your bottle isn't opened yet, store it in the dark in an interior hall closet -- one where the sun doesn't shine on the back wall. Having grown up in LA, this will be fine . . . especially for the relatively short time you'll be in LA . . . .


                      1. re: zin1953

                        I'm assuming you mean in a closet where there is a/c always on on that floor. The home I will be staying at has a warmer 2nd floor. Old home. Maybe 50-60 years old. By Eagle Rock. So I suppose if I keep it on the main floor in a closet on it's side it should be fine for a few days till I get to that bottle.

                        Thanks for your input Jason.

                        If you had to recommend a good wine shop by (or in Glendale) where would I go? With the widest variety. Likely to ship old world wines properly...etc. Do they have a website so I can order online...

                        1. re: BDD888

                          Not Glendale, but you might want to check out The Wine Country, just south of the Long Beach airport in Signal Hill.

                          1. re: PolarBear

                            I'll do that If I'm near LB. Though I trust they have a website where I can order from.

                          2. re: BDD888

                            Roughly in order of their distance from Glendale, here is a list of SOME of LA's top wine shops . . .

                            Red Carpet Wine & Spirits, Glendale
                            Mission Wines, South Pasadena
                            K&L Wines, Hollywood
                            Larchmont Village Wine, Spirits & Cheese, LA
                            Wine House, West LA
                            Wally's, West LA
                            LA Wine Co., LA
                            Wine Expo, Santa Monica
                            Wine Country, Signal Hill

                            . . . . and there are many more.

                              1. re: BDD888

                                Before leaving L.A., you might want to investigate one of Martin Weiner's wine tastings. Once he introduces you to Cheval Blanc, you may no longer be dreaming of a bottle of Chateau Margaux.

                                1. re: omotosando

                                  I'll put them on my list of bottles to taste while I'm in LA. :) Maybe attend one of their tastings. Thanks. Maybe bring back a bottle of red and one white. Or more....

                                  1. re: omotosando

                                    I think it all depends on individual taste!!
                                    The Cheval Blanc that I have tasted ( 82,83,85,90 ) has been consistently rich, full blooded, intensely vigorous and perfumed.
                                    Margaux, on the other hand I find more refined and 'feminine' , most seductive and fabulously perfumed ( 82,83,86,90 ).
                                    Personally, I like Margaux over Cheval Blanc.
                                    In fact, I prefer Ausone over Cheval Blanc nowadays. (95, 2000)

                                    1. re: Charles Yu

                                      I agree. All we can do is keep sampling different vintages from different wine producers. To each his ow.

                                      Are there any specialty wine shops in Toronto that you know of? Or do you only shop at the LCBO?

                                      1. re: Charles Yu

                                        I thought the 1990 Cheval Blanc was incredibly balanced and not overly vigorous and perfumed. I preferred it to the 1985. I have not tried the 1982 or 1983. Most people at a tasting that I went to earlier this year preferred the 1990 Cheval Blanc over the 2003 Chateau Ausone, although the Ausone was vastly more expensive ($1,600 a bottle and up; one place in Northern California is selling it -- or trying to sell it -- for $2,800 for a regular size bottle!). As I recall, only one person preferred the Ausone.

                                        It may depend on how much you love Cab Franc. I love Cab Franc!

                                        1. re: omotosando

                                          Well that answers a lot of questions!! For me, I'm more fond of the 'Merlot' component of St. Emilion.
                                          Cab Franc lover??!! For ady to day drinking, you must have a lot of Chinon in your collection??!!

                                          1. re: Charles Yu

                                            I don't really have a "collection" -- just a few bottles in an offsite locker, including, yes, some aged Chinon -- Olga Raffault. It's cheaper than aged Bordeaux. I had to get a professional storage locker because I was told in no uncertain terms when I bought a bottle of Cheval Blanc that it would be a crime, getting back to the original post, to leave it lying about the house unless I intended to drink it within the month.

                                            1. re: omotosando

                                              Could you not have bought a wine fridge? Have a wine cellar built?

                                              And have you drank your bottle of Cheval Blanc? Which vintage? And why do you prefer it over let's say a CH Margaux or Petrus? Or D'Yquem?

                                        2. re: Charles Yu


                                          Have you tasted all those vintages? Or do you own bottles of each?

                                          I suppose I should consider either a Cheval Blanc or CH Margaux as one wine to bring back from LA. Since pricing is much better in the US. More so for CH Margaux I've found. Saving it for a special occasion and as an investment. Or maybe one of each? This way on that VERY special occasion I can do a blind taste test.

                                          A 2000 or 2005 Ausone is a tad much at $2000 CAD and up. :) Maybe you can buy a bottle or two and invite me and skyliner33 over. :)

                                          1. re: BDD888

                                            To answer your question. Its yes and no!
                                            I have some of those bottles in my possesion and I also auctioned off some. I also managed to taste all of them through friend's generosity and attending 'fine wine' tasting' held by wine clubs and food and wine shows.
                                            Ausone is super popular in Hong Kong right now!! I attended three meals at Michelin restaurants with people all around us drinking various vintages if it!!

                                            1. re: Charles Yu

                                              If HK has the most # of Rolls Royce in any city then why not also drink Ausone. :)

                                              Very generous friends.

                                              1. re: BDD888

                                                It all boils down to - do you enjoy it?

                                                Many spend their $ "collecting" fine wines. but I am not sure that all are enjoying them. To some, they are but a pin in a list, or map. To others, they are the end of a very long journey.

                                                What would it mean to you? That is the question.



                                    2. re: zin1953

                                      ". . . and there are many more."

                                      But that is a good,serviceable list. Just because of my dealings, from AZ, I tend to lean to K & L, but then I deal with the Redwood City store, and with one particular person. Were I shopping on the street, I cannot think of any others, that I would add.


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                              1. Wine storage depends on a lot of factors.

                                Do you want to lay down younger wines, to explore in many years to come, or do you need short-term storage for maybe drinking older wines now?

                                For general-consumption, I use a 'fridge in my garage, set to about 50F. Most of those wines are whites, that will be consumed early, or sparklers, with the same time-span. My reds seldom go in there, unless I need to chill down a PN, or similar, for tonight, or tomorrow night. The rest go to the cellar at 55F, where my long-term, or at least longer-term storage takes place.

                                So, it depends. A 'fridge is fine for shorter term storage, but an ideal is that it be set above the normal temps, or that you let ALL wines, but sparklers, come up to temp, before drinking them.



                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  I will be getting a dual-zone wine fridge. Either an Eurocave or Cavevin (Canadian). When I return next year.

                                  1. re: BDD888

                                    If it costs significantly more, I'd consider whether dual-zone is really necessary. I store all my wines at 53 degrees, and also load one rack of my fridge with daily drinker whites/sparklers. If I want a more special white/sparkler, I'll just put it in the fridge before dinner (or ice bucket if pressed for time).

                                    I store my wines a little cooler than many, but I'm not sure I'd want to store white wines at serving temp, especially if that's fairly cold for you (say low 40s). It might not harm them - certainly better than storing too warm - but will slow the maturation process.

                                    We don't know how all the different chemical reactions work that causes a wine to age gracefully, to transform into something special, but we do know that temperature has a very profound effect and that all those little processes occur at different rates. I store my wines a bit cooler in the wild hope (and that's all it is) that I'm preserving a bit more fruit and freshness while also allowing those secondary characteristics to emerge - and also because I have a fondness for fragile, low sulfur "natural" wines - but I'm basically staying within the standards established by centuries of practice. Of course, those practices were dictated largely by necessity, but it wouldn't surprise me if winemaking techniques adapted to these necessities as a matter of course - a slow evolution of distinct, perhaps subtle practices that result in the creation of wines that prove to age gracefully when stored at historically typical cellar temps.

                                    On the other hand, it's possible that one overthinks such things.... ;)

                                    1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                                      There's actually no price difference between a dual-zone and a single. Surprisingly. See here...look at model x183...


                                      And as you is better to store at a slightly lower than recommended temp than over (65F/18C). Same with gourmet coffee beans. Same issues with oxidation affecting the flavour and freshness.

                                      I suppose if you are planning to drink the wine in the next couple of days storing it in a typical kitchen fridge should suffice. It's when you plan to store it for months or years that you might want to look at a better way to store the wines. Preferably temp/humidity controlled. Or could you still store wines in a typical kitchen fridge for months & years with no adverse affects. Assuming it's colder than 65F (most are).

                                      1. re: BDD888

                                        >>> Or could you still store wines in a typical kitchen fridge for months & years with no adverse affects. <<<