Oxidation, temperature, humidity, light, external odors, and vibration can negatively impact the taste of your wine. Whether you are a serious collector or a casual drinker, you will want to protect your investment and take steps to ensure that your wine stays tasting great.
Many wines (especially reds) will improve with age. Couple this with the fact that wine is usually more affordable when purchased by the case, and you’ll see that proper wine storage will be of high importance to any wine enthusiast.
These wine storage tips are intended to provide seasoned wine collectors and newcomers with valuable information regarding the storage of a wine collection. Here, you will find tips on how to prevent wine oxidation, proper wine storage temperatures, how to light a wine cellar, humidity control, and how to build a wine cellar or storage system to accommodate any size wine collection.
1. Combating Oxidation
Exposure to air can cause wine to spoil and turn to vinegar. To keep air out, wine should be stored horizontally so the wine stays in contact with the cork. This keeps the cork moist and expanded, thereby preventing air from entering the bottle.
Keeping the cork moist also reduces the chance that it will crumble when removed saving you from having to strain pieces of cork from the wine before enjoying it.
Organize-It carries a variety of wine accessories for any budget, and wine racks of all sizes and capacities.
2. Controlling Temperature
Temperature is one of the most important factors to consider for your wine. The optimal storage temperature for white wines is between 40 and 52 degrees, while reds should be stored between 52 60 degrees. The low to mid 50’s is best for both types of wine. While overall temperature is important, the stability of the temperature is even more important. A slow 10 degree swing in temperature between seasons is acceptable, but frequent and rapid fluctuations can severely damage wine. A wine will age more quickly as its storage temperature increases. Conversely, the colder the storage temperature, the slower the aging process. This does not mean that freezing will make for a good tasting wine for all time; storing your wine at too low of a temperature will damage the wine as well.
At this point, you may want to consider the volume of wine you will be storing. For storing up to a couple hundred bottles, try a free-standing wine cellar. These self contained units feature temperature control, and are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and styles. If you plan to store more that a couple hundred bottles, it is usually more economical to build a wine cellar. Please see the Building a Wine Cellar section below.
3. Controlling Humidity
Proper humidity is key to keeping the corks in resilient condition, and thereby preventing them from shrinking. Low humidity will cause the corks to dry out and air to permeate the bottles. Too little humidity will also cause the corks to splinter during opening.
A relative humidity of 50% – 80% is acceptable but 70% is recommended. This is why redwood is the preferred wood for wine cellar racking. Redwood resists the mold, mildew, rotting, splitting and warping. Excessive humidity will not harm the wine, but can cause damage to other types of wood racking, wine labels and wine cases.
4. Lighting Options
Like improper temperatures, light will prematurely age a bottle of wine. This is why wine makers do not use clear bottles. However, ultraviolet light will penetrate even dark colored glass and may give a wine an unpleasant aroma. When lighting a wine cellar, use incandescent light instead of fluorescent light. Florescent light emits more ultraviolet rays than incandescent light.
5. Eliminating Odors
Extraneous odors can enter through a bottle’s cork and contaminate the wine. Be sure that your storage space is odor-free.
Wood wine racks and shelves should be left untreated. If you do finish or treat your wood wine racking, allow ample time for all odors from varnish, paint or sealant to subside before using the rack to store your wine. Ensure that your wine storage area is properly ventilated; the air circulation will help eliminate any odor in the space.
6. Avoiding Vibration
Too much moving, shaking or vibration is not good for any wine. Once your wine is stored, try not to move it until you are ready to open and enjoy it.
7. Building a Wine Cellar
If you are a wine collector or enthusiast wanting to store a large quantity of wine over a period of months or years, you will probably want a wine cellar. The first thing to decide is the quantity of bottles you will store. This will give you an idea of how large to make your cellar. Keep in mind you may want to allow some room for your collection to grow. If you are like most people, you may have space limitations which may help you settle on your storage quantity. Areas below ground-level are best for cellars, because the atmosphere requires less conditioning.
Once you have chosen your location, you will need to begin planning construction of your wine storage cellar. Construction meaning the actual construction of stud walls, or simply the retrofitting of an existing closet. Keep in mind that to achieve the optimal conditions you will need to outfit the cellar with a cooling unit and perhaps a humidifier.
Wine cellar conditioning units come in many styles and sizes, but some may need to be vented and outfitted with a water drain. Organize-It offers a self-contained unit called the WhisperKool 1600. This unit needs to be vented to an unfinished part of the basement or house. If you do not have an unfinished area to vent into, you will need to vent it directly outdoors.
Because you will want to maintain the temperature and humidity in your cellar differently than in the rest of your house, you will need to insulate the walls. Your humidity level will be higher in the cellar, so you will want to use a vapor barrier on the warm side of the cellar walls. Wall material should be water resistant dry wall (green board) or a type of paneling able to withstand high levels of humidity. The door used should be exterior grade with a threshold and weather stripping for a tight seal.
Now that you have your cellar built, you will want to furnish it. The primary furnishings will be wine racks to hold your bottles. Remember, redwood is the best choice and kits can be purchased from Organize-It at our Wine Racks Page. For a more customized fit and look you can also go with a custom racking solution. Please contact us for a quote. There are many styles of racks including: individual bottle storage, case storage, diamond bins, etc. Your tastes and preferences will help determine your racking layout. Finally you can add some extras like a table and chairs, a stemware rack or some art. The only other thing left to do is enjoy your wine.