A DIY Guide to Cellaring and Storing Wine
When it Comes to Storing Your Wine, You Have Options
By Zachary Bernstein
Not every wine lover makes the transition from casual drinker to avid collector, but those who do tend to think towards the future rather than live in the moment. Most collectors want to hold onto wines for sentimental reasons; revisiting the taste of their favorite bottle of red served during their honeymoon in Italy, perhaps. Maybe they simply have an affinity for wines of a particular region and want to experience the wine over time on special occasions. The savviest collectors might hold onto their wine as an investment.
Whatever the reason, if you’re a wine enthusiast on the verge of amassing your wine collection, keep in mind that not every wine is crafted to mature. Some wines improve with age, but other vintage-dated wines, like vintage clothes, more often represent the fashion of its time and should be treated as such. So, make sure you don’t bother cellaring a last-minute gift bottle your brother picked up from the local pharmacy on his way over to your birthday party.
The best way to store your wine is in a proper wine cellar, where it is dark and always about 56 degrees Fahrenheit. But the reality is, most of us don’t have a proper wine cellar in our home.
So, here are the next best options:
I know that Californias will shake their head at this one. After all, California is notorious for its prevalence of homes without basements. But for the fortunate ones that do have a basement, poke around to see if there’s a good place to store your wine down there. Since basements tend to be cooler than the rest of the house, it’s your best bet to keep wine shielded from sunlight and significant heat spikes from those hot summer days. Having wine stored in the dark also keeps your wine from getting spoiled by UV sunlight exposure. Buy some racks from the Container Store and make sure the surroundings are hospitable; placing your bottles next to the heat of a furnace, or the vibrations of a washer and dryer which polarize the juice, are great ways to ruin the wine. Also, be sure to store wine bottles on their side. It’s important to keep the cork moist, lest it shrink over time and expose the wine to the air. Though, screw-top wines are okay standing upright.
Don’t have a basement? Your safest bet is a wine fridge. Wines stored at room temperature won’t keep unless that room is constantly climate-controlled between 55-59 degrees fahrenheit with 55-75% humidity, conditions perfect for wine longevity. Wine fridges come in all different sizes, so choosing which wine fridge is for you depends on the size of both your collection, your home, and your checking account. The casual short-term collector might be fine with a thermoelectric fridge, which is quieter, but experiences mild temperature fluctuations. The hardcore collector will prefer a condenser fridge for better climate consistency. Just keep in mind that condenser fridges are louder and better situated in the garage instead of the kitchen.
For the insatiable collector who wakes up one day and finds they can’t even get to the bathroom without contorting around a stack of their treasured Pinots, it might be time to rent out space at a climate-controlled wine storage unit. Many have a sizable monthly or yearly rental fee, but it’s usually worth it. Most homes aren’t designed with wine storage options in mind, and a rental unit devoted to maintaining wine integrity might just be the way to go. If you’ve gotten to the point in your collection where you’re even considering the benefits of a wine storage unit, chances are you’re ready to commit.
If none of these options sound like they’re for you, maybe just consider drinking your wine this weekend. Good things come to those that wait, but when it comes to good wine, the same is true for those who don’t.
Zachary Bernstein is a writer and musician based in Los Angeles, California. His expertise on the subject of wine knows no bounds.