Storing wine is important because just like food, wine is perishable. Proper wine storage will help to ensure that the expensive French Bordeaux you were given as a gift, will not turn to vinegar by the time you get around to opening it!
If you are looking to build your own cellar then you’ll want to keep the following information in mind.
How to Store Wine
The key to understanding proper wine storage is to know what the enemies of wine are. They are heat, light, oxygen, low humidity, and I’ve been told, vibration.
The ideal conditions to store wine is in a cool (around 45°F – 60°F), dark, and damp place. Since we no longer live in caves or castles, this can be quite challenging.
It’s really important to ask yourself how long plan on storing the wine and for what purpose. If you’re just a causal drinker and just want to store a few bottles for a maximum of a year or so, then your storage needs will be dramatically different than if you are buying wine as an investment.
Before I go any further…
On its Side or Not?
Definitely on its side. Here’s why. Oxygen is the worst enemy to the actual wine inside the bottle. The bottles are sealed from the oxygen with pliable, expansive cork. If the cork dries out, it will shrink and possibly let oxygen enter the bottle and oxidize the wine.
Storing the wine on its side will keep the cork moist and maintain the air tight seal for a good deal of time. For extreme periods of time, a humidity controlled environment will be needed to keep the cork from drying out.
The Casual Wine Storer
If you like to keep a few bottles on hand for those impromptu dinners or you just don’t like to go shopping for wine but a few times a year, then I’m referring to you as a casual storer. This also assumes that you rotate your stock and only keep each bottle a maximum of about a year or so.
For you, storage will be relatively easy. Just find a place away from sunlight that is relatively cool. Under the sink will probably be fine. Better would be in a basement or under the staircase, etc. You will want to store the wines on their side though if possible.
You can keep the wine in a wine rack, but don’t place it on top of the refrigerator. The motor could make it warm and they say that the vibrations are bad for the wine.
You may want to consider buying a wine refrigerator (or wine cave). This is especially true if you drink mostly white wine or Champagne. There are many on the market with a wide range of sizes and features. All of them are made to be able to store the wine on their sides. The little ones can be placed just about anywhere and really affordable. Their motors are usually made to have a minimize vibrations.
Even though they are not really a necessity at this level, I like them because they keep the bottle at ready to drink temperatures. I, like most people, keep my room temperature warmer than any wine should be consumed.
Regardless of your current knowledge of wine, if you are wanting to store many bottles or a bottle of wine for a few years, I’m referring to you as a collector. Your storage needs will be a little more demanding.
If you are planning on buying wine as an investment, it may be impossible to sell the wine for what it’s worth if you cannot convince the buyer that it has been cellared properly. Over a long period of time, visual inspection of the bottle and label will give many clues to it’s condition and how well it has been stored.
Not only will you need a temperature controlled environment, but you will also need humidity levels well above 50%. Even though humidity levels in this range could cause mold to grow and labels to deteriorate, it will keep the cork seal tight and eliminate the wine from evaporating out and oxygen getting in.
The better wine caves and cellaring environments maintain humidity levels and circulate the air to reduce the chance of mold. The caves will also have dampeners to cut down on vibrations.
You can even buy modular, self contained wine rooms! These are a great solution to maintaining the proper environment if your budget will allow it.
After getting an idea of what your needs are, check out the site below. They have everything from the most basic racks and wine caves to the most elaborate custom installations and wine rooms. Check out the cellar outlet for great deals.
Quick Storing Points
- Keep Bottles on their sides
- Store in cool place with little temperature fluctuation
- For long term storing, maintain high humidity levels (65% – 90%)
- Keep out of direct sunlight
- Keep away from heavy vibrations (motors shutting on and off)
- Find out the age worthiness of your wines before they are past their prime
- Buy a little more storage than you think you need
- Which Wines Improve with Age
- Most wines made today were really intended to be consumed young
- Reds generally age better than whites
- High quality wines will improve and last longer
- Very tannic wines mellow and improve with age
- Champagne will age wonderfully if stored in proper conditions
- Aged wines are fragile and can deteriorate very quickly once opened
- Many dessert wines age well
- Fine Bordeaux
- Grand Cru and Premier Cru Burgundies
- Quality Spanish Rioja
- Big reds from Italy (Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello di Montalcino, etc.)
- Quality Syrah from the Rhône and Shiraz from Australia
- Vintage Port
- Grand Cru and Premier Cru white Burgundies
- Quality white Bordeaux
- Alsace Rieslings
One Last Thing
One of the neatest products I’ve seen for storing wine is a unit called the Wine Keeper. It’s neat because it is also a wine dispenser.
This is a refrigerated wine dispensing/storing unit that has two, independently controlled temperature chambers. One side for reds and one for whites.
As the wine is being dispensed, nitrogen is being injected into the bottles to preserve the wine!
I love this idea because it enables you to open multiple bottles at a time for comparison without having to drink the whole bottle. Not only that, but when your ready for your next glass, your wine is already at the correct temperature!