In the past I have written articles on wine temperatures and on collecting wine. In both of those articles I touched on the aspect of wine storage. In today’s blog I want to further examine the issue of storing your wine.
I am going to assume that after 250+ articles about all things dealing with wine, I have convinced you to either collect wine or have a few extra bottles tucked away.
How you store your wine has an impact on how long your wine will last and how it tastes. Listed below are some tips or thoughts I have on storing your wine. I have found that the lure of wine collecting can be intoxicating and suddenly you realize you have more wine than you ever thought you might. When you reach a certain point in the accumulation of wine, comes the need to organize it in some fashion. It is only natural, the more bottles you have the more likely you have to ramp up your storage arrangements.
Let me give you an example of what happens to wine collectors. In my case, I started buying wine back in the early 2000s. Not too much longer after I really started buying wine I ended up with 60 cases piled up on the floor in my family room (I could never remember what was on the bottom of the piles). At that point it became apparent I needed to figure out more storage. That is when I decided to build a custom wine cellar in my home. As happens with wine collectors, over time your wine cellar mysteriously fills up, as mine did. Today I have three separate wine storage areas. You will see, as I did, as your collection grows, storage becomes more important. Here are some of my thoughts on general storage.
- Proper temperatures: Temperature is the most important factor in wine storage. The optimal temperature to store your wine is 55 to 58 degrees. This is good for both red and white wines. If you can’t maintain the ideal temperature of 55 degrees then do the best you can to keep the wine at less than room temperature. Also, try and keep the temperature as consistent as you can. Fluctuations as well as high temperatures will negatively affect your wine and it can even render the wine undrinkable.
- Store in a darker place: Exposure to light can have a negative effect on your wine as well as temperature. The UV rays can heat the wine and can cause degradation of your wine which leads to unpleasant or off flavors.
- Humidity: Another important factor to keep in mind is to store our wine in a more humid location. The ideal humidity level is around 65% to 75%. The higher humidity helps keep the bottle cork from shrinking. If your cork dries out it can allow air to get into your wine and cause it to go bad over time.
- Limit movement or vibration: Too much movement can interfere with the aging of your wine and will shake up the sediments. If you move your wine and it gets shaken I recommend letting it lay down for another week before you drink it. With older wines (8 years or older) I recommend that when you are ready to drink the wine you stand the bottle upright for a day or so before you open the wine to drink it. This allows the sediment in the wine to settle to the bottom of the bottle so it doesn’t end up in your glass (if carefully poured).
- Storage – Lay it down: It is important to make sure you lay your bottles of wine on their sides. I always lay my wines down with the labels up so I can easily tell what they are. Laying them on their side is important so that the wine and the cork are in constant contact. This makes sure your cork will not dry out (if that happens your cork will shrink) so that air (oxygen) will not seep in and spoil your wine.
- Storing in the fridge: Storing your wine in your refrigerator for short periods of time is a good idea…especially if you have opened the bottle and didn’t drink all of it. I would not recommend that your wine be in the fridge for more than 10 days. The problem you run into is: the fridge temperature is generally below 45 degrees with no humidity or moisture. This causes the cork to dry out and shrink which will eventually allow oxygen into the wine bottle and damage or ruin the wine.
Now that we have covered general wine storage let us look at methods of storage:
- A simple low-cost approach is to purchase some round clay field tiles that are 12 inches long with an inside dimension of 5 to 6 inches. This size will hold most wine bottles including the longer Pinot Noir and Chardonnay bottles. Pick a low temperature area in your basement and stack the tiles on top of each other. Be sure to block both ends so the tiles don’t move and collapse on you. There are any number of shapes you might end up with, such as a pyramid or a straight wall style. This, of course, depends on how you support each end.
- You can also purchase some wooden wine racks that come in various sizes, styles and even stain furnishes. These racks can be found on the internet from any number of companies and all of them seem to have racks on sale. I have seen racks priced from $50 and up. I paid that amount for some the wooden racks that I purchased.You’ll need to put some thought into the style and size that will work for you. These racks are very versatile. They can be set up on a floor, in a cabinet or be built into your actual wine cellar.
- If you don’t have a suitable space for wooden racks or an actual wine cellar you may want to consider a wine fridge. They also come in many styles and sizes. Personally, I have both the under-counter style as well as a larger, free-standing unit.
Most of the under-counter units, or compact units, start around $450 and go up to as much as $2,350. The more expensive units are larger (hold more bottles) and come in a number of colors and furnishes.
The upright, free-standing units start at around $900 and go up as high as $4,000 to $5,000. Again, it depends on your needs and what finish or style you want. These units can be placed in about any location and generally hold 130 to 150 bottles of wine depending on the bottle shape and size.
When I purchased my free-standing unit I didn’t pay attention to the fact that it would hold more Cabernet Sauvignon-style bottles than it would of Chardonnay-style or Pinot Noir-style. I wanted as much capacity as I could get and was mad at myself that I didn’t pay more attention to what I was purchasing.
The morale of my story is that before you decide to purchase any of these units, you should have a strong idea of what you are wanting to store and how many bottles there will be.
- Once you are hooked on collecting wine and you want to go to a full-blown wine cellar your options for wine racks is almost endless. There are a great number of books available on the ins and outs of constructing a wine cellar. They’ll provide you information on every aspect of construction, layout, racks, electrical and cooling.
I have included some photos of my friends Tom Pletcher, Tom Welsh and Dallas Bergl’s wine cellars as well as a couple shots of my own. These cellars are custom made and have various types of cooling and hold any number of bottles of wine. As you can see in the pictures, there are many different racks you can use to store your wine.
Dallas Bergl’s custom-made wine cellar is stored in the lower level of his home:
Tom Pletcher’s custom-made wine cellar is in the dining room of his home:
Tom Welsh’s wine room is in his basement where he uses a number of wooden racks and refrigerators to keep his wines at the perfect temperature:
In my main cellar I have wooden racks that allow the bottles to stack front to back of a tray type opening. Each opening holds 14 to 25 bottles of wine depending which opening it is. They are great looking but not as efficient if you have multiple vintages or vineyards stored together.
Designing and building your storage area or wine cellar is a great deal of fun and is also an important part of enjoying your wine collection and wine in general.
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Until next week,
Calendar of Events
- May 21st – National Chardonnay Day
- May 25th – National Wine Day
- June 11th – National Rosé Wine Day
- Aug 1st – National Albariño Day
- Aug 18th – National Pinot Noir Day