Storing wine properly is essential if you plan to keep the wine for any amount of time. Since some wines improve with at least a little aging, finding an appropriate option for wine storage can help maintain the wine's integrity. Appropriate long- and short-term storage for wines requires a consistent temperature, low levels of UV light, and it needs to in an area away from vibration with some level of humidity control.
The Basics of Storing Wine
A majority of the wines available on the market today won't benefit much from bottle aging and therefore only really hold up well for a year or two in storage. However, if you're buying fine wines or collectible wines and plan to store them to age for more than a few years, then you'll want a much higher quality wine storage solution than you'll require for wines that you plan to hold only for a few years or less. In both cases, however, it's essential to provide as much control of the following factors as possible in order to keep the wines safe until you drink them.
Store Between 45° and 65°F
Wines stored at too high of temperatures (above 70°F) will age more quickly or even risk becoming "cooked", a condition in which the wine loses its vibrancy and takes on flat flavors. Temperatures that are too cool can dry out the cork and also allow oxygen to reach the wine, which oxidizes it and renders it undrinkable. Therefore, except for chilling wine to drink or for storing opened bottles of wine, your fridge generally isn't a great option for more than a few days to store any wine.
Avoid Temperature Fluctuations
It's also important to avoid temperature fluctuations; consistency is best for holding a wine because as the temperature changes, the bottle expands and contracts, which can allow oxygen to reach the wine causing it to age more quickly or even causing the wine to become cooked or off in flavors and aromas.
Store Away From UV Light
It's always best to store wine in a dark place where it's not continuously exposed to light, especially UV light. UV light can prematurely age wine. Therefore, dark is best.
Maintain a Humidity of about 50% to 70%
For short-term storage, humidity isn't a huge factor. However, super humid conditions can cause the cork to mold while too dry of conditions can cause it to dry out and possibly oxidize the wine. Therefore, try to store it in a location that has some humidity but not so much that it's like a sauna.
Next to your washing machine is never a great location for wine racks because vibration from spin cycle can negatively affect a wine. Minor vibrations, however, shouldn't have too much of an effect on wine. Just try not to store them somewhere that they'll get shaken up.
Lie Bottles With Corks on Their Side
If you're buying wines with screw caps or synthetic corks, then you don't need to worry about this tip. If, however, you're buying wines with natural cork, then you need to store them on their side. This position allows the wine in the bottle to keep the corks moist. Preventing the corks from drying out keeps oxygen from reaching the wine.
Options for Wine Storage
There are many options for wine storage that meet these conditions. The type of wine you buy, how long you plan to store the wine, and your budget will determine which options are the best for you.
Professional Off-Site Storage
If you are a serious collector and buy expensive and/or rare bottles of wine that you plan to age for decades, or you buy the wines as an investment, then you may wish to opt for professional off-site storage. Wine storage firms will store your wine in ideal conditions, which saves storage space at home. It's also a great way for wine collectors to track the provenance of wines if they plan to resell them to other collectors. With professional wine storage, you have either a self-service option, which is essentially a storage locker for wine, or you have a full-service option, which includes organization, tracking, record maintenance, and more. Expect wine storage to cost anywhere from about $2.25 to $4 per bottle per year.
At-Home Wine Cave or Cellar
If you prefer to store wine at home and you've got a big budget and lots of space, then you may wish to consider installing a wine cave or wine cellar. These are professional installations that turn a room or rooms in your home into permanent, high-grade wine storage because they control temperature, humidity, light, and vibration. This is a good option for wine collectors with large collections who want immediate access to their wine anytime they wish. Costs associated with wine caves or cellars include design, build, cost of the environmental control units such as coolers and compressors, maintenance and repair costs, and monthly utility costs associated with keeping the unit running and cooling the wines. These units can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
For smaller collections, you may be able to convert a closet in your home into a wine closet with wine rack storage and temperature and humidity control. To do this, you'll need to choose a closet without windows or much light, preferably away from an outside wall. You'll also need to insulate the closet and the door, and you'll need to purchase a wine cooling unit to maintain the temperature. Finally, you'll need to install wine racks or shelves for storage. While this is a more affordable option than a wine cave or cellar, you'll still need to pay for the racks, cooling unit, and insulation, which will likely cost a few thousand dollars. Likewise, you'll need to pay ongoing maintenance and utility costs associated with running the cooling unit.
Wine Fridge or Cooler
A wine refrigerator or cooler is an excellent way to keep smaller collections in ideal conditions. These appliances can range in size from those that hold a few bottles to coolers that hold a few hundred bottles, and they can be a stand-alone appliance like a refrigerator or a built-in unit. Costs range from around $100 for small units to thousands for large refrigerators. Additional costs include maintenance and any utility costs for running the unit.
A wine cabinet is a stand-alone, decorative piece of furniture. Wine cabinets generally have spaces for wine bottles to lay on their sides as well as a place for wine glass storage. Cabinets can cost from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, and they don't have any environmental controls. Therefore, these are best for people who are simply looking for a place to hold bottles of wine for a year or so before drinking them.
Wine Racks and Shelves
There are a number of wine rack options available. Some are finished pieces of furniture, while others are meant to slip into a closet or cupboard to hold wine on its side. Others are countertop options, and a few are even wall-mountable racks. Since wine racks aren't temperature controlled, these are good options for people who purchase a few bottles of wine here and there and plan to drink them within the next year. Costs for wine racks can range from under $100 to several hundred dollars depending on the size and finishes. They contain storage that allows you to place bottles of wine on their side. And aside from the initial cost to purchase plus possible installation costs, there aren't really any additional cost for the racks. It's important to place the racks in a cool location away from vibration and rapid temperature fluctuations, but for people who only plan to keep the bottles for a year or so, they're a great solution.
A Cool Room, Cupboard, Closet, or Basement
If you occasionally bring wine home to drink and need to store it for a few weeks to a few months, then any place that is cool, dark, and away from vibration and large temperature fluctuations will work. This could be a cupboard, an interior closet, a drawer, or even your basement provided the temperature doesn't change a lot in it. Store the wine on its side, install a small rack, or even place the wine on its side in polystyrene shippers to help maintain temperature and insulate the wine.
Storing Wine Properly Protects Your Investment
Even if you're not a serious collector or wine buyer and simply purchase a few bottles here and there for enjoyment in the near future, storing wine properly both in the short- and long-term protects the investment you made. Ensuring proper storage conditions helps keep the wine at its best until you're ready to pop the cork.