Wine Storage and Preservation Options
Wines stored for just a week or two can suffer if they are exposed to high temperatures or vibrations. Additionally, wine stored for longer periods of time should also be shielded from light, particularly ultra-violet light.
Below are descriptions of several types of wine drinkers and the wine storage options that are appropriate for them. Solutions range from single bottle preservation devices to large capacity wine cellars and cabinets.
Which Type of Wine Drinker are You?
- “I drink wine often but rarely store bottles.”
- “I have four or five bottles of wine for special occasions.”
- “I have about 30 bottles of wine that I have been saving.”
- “I have about 100 bottles of wine and want to collect more.”
“I drink wine often but rarely store bottles.”
This wine drinker does not store wine for an extended period of time before it is consumed, and he/she doesn’t really need a dedicated storage area. However, there are a couple of tricks that he/she can use to get the most out of the wine.
A common problem for this kind of wine drinker is what to do with open bottles that don’t get finished. If you would like to keep an open wine bottle for a day or two, there are some things that you can do. Re-corking a bottle of wine and putting it in the refrigerator will preserve it for a day or two.
If you would like to keep the wine longer, consider a Vacu Vin wine saver. This system has been around for more than a decade. If properly used, the wine stored using a Vacu Vin system may last for more than one week.
Another way to preserve wines for a few days is with bottled nitrogen or argon. The idea is very simple: displace the oxygen-containing air in the bottle with nitrogen or argon, and the wine will not get oxidized and will last longer. To use these products, spray a two-second burst of gas into the opened wine bottle and quickly replace the cork. That’s it. Bottled argon is available from Vineyard Fresh. Similar products are offered by Oenophilia and Pek.
Be sure to drink the wine at the proper serving temperature. For white wines, a serving temperature of about 43 °F is good. It takes about 2 hours in the refrigerator to chill white wine to this temperature. Red wine should be served at about 63°F, which is cooler than most homes. To prepare a red wine for drinking, chill it in the refrigerator about 30 minutes before opening.
“I have four or five bottles of wine for special occasions.”
One of the hardest things to do as a wine drinker is to store four or five bottles. Such a small number does not warrant a wine storage system, but the bottles that you are saving are important to you, and you don’t want them to spoil.
Your wine’s biggest enemy is temperature. Wine does not like it when the temperature exceeds 70 °F. If you happen to have a basement or root cellar, those may be good options. If the temperature in the basement or root cellar doesn’t exceed 70 °F, it’s perfect. Store the wine on its side and cover exposed bottles with a towel or blanket to block the light.
If the temperature in your home routinely exceeds 70 °F, your stored wine will suffer. In this situation, locate a storage space for your wine in the coolest part of the house. For example, consider a storage space in a closet or pantry near the floor. Store the wine bottles on their side, and place a towel over the bottles to block the light and to help insulate the bottles from rapid temperature changes. Wines stored this way should be consumed within a year.
Be sure to bring it to the correct temperature before drinking. Red wines stored at room temperature need about 30 minutes in the refrigerator to reach a serving temperature of about 63 °F. White wines need about 2 hours, and champagne should be chilled for about 3 hours before serving.
“I have about 30 bottles of wine that I have been saving.”
If you’re holding onto 2 or 3 cases on wine, it may be time to think about proper wine storage. Even at a modest bottle price, 30 bottles of wine costs several hundred to several thousand dollars. If you intend to keep the wine for an extended period of time, proper storage should be a consideration.
What constitutes proper wine storage? Think about a cellar: they are cold, dark, relatively humid, and very still. If you are ready to make the leap to climate-controlled storage, there are a couple of options for you to consider.
Private warehouse facilities frequently offer wine storage. Most of the storage facilities allow you 24 hour access, and rental prices start around $50 per month for about 8 cases worth of storage space or about $0.50 per bottle per month. These facilities control both temperature and relative humidity, and most keep records of the temperature and relative humidity. These records are important if you want to sell your wine.
Another option for storing a couple of cases of wine is a stand alone wine cabinet. There are several manufacturers of wine cabinets, but just a few of them offer units for storing less than 100 bottles. Haier, Avanti, Danby, Silent, and Marvel all offer wine storage units that hold about 30 bottles. If you shop around the units can be purchased for $200 to $600 depending on the maker, where you buy the unit and your shipping costs.
There are also some very stylish high-end models offered by Vinotemp, Eurocave, and Portfolio. Many manufacturers also offer undercounter versions of their smaller units. The price for the undercounter models is about twice the cost of the free standing cabinets. To compare the price of wine cabinets systems with offsite storage, I assumed the wine cabinet would last 7 years and it was always full of wine. Excluding energy costs, the cost of storing the wine in a $250 system is about $0.10 per bottle per month for the estimated life of the system.
When considering a wine cabinet, consider where you want to locate the unit in your home. Some of the systems make more noise than the average refrigerator. Locating a wine cabinet near bedrooms can be a mistake.
“I have about 100 bottles of wine and want to collect more.”
Wine drinkers that are holding onto almost 100 bottles need to consider the storage of their wine carefully. 100 bottles is an investment of several thousand dollars and represents lots of time and effort. More importantly, it is the potential of your collection that you want to protect, and you want these wines to age to their potential. That is the point of collecting wine! You probably agree or you wouldn’t be reading this.
So, what do you do next? The first thing you have to decide is how much wine you are going to have “in storage” at any one time. Obviously, you need room for the bottles that you have already collected, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Once you have the ability to store wine safely for extended periods of time, you might increase the rate at which you collect wine. You must also consider the everyday wine that you purchase. You will not be storing these wines long term, but the bottles will take-up room.
You might also want to consider how to save a little money with your wine storage capability. For example, every holiday season a large grocery retailer will sell one or two champagnes for just slightly over cost. They use the low prices to bring folks into the store. My wife and I use it to stock-up on champagne at a great price. There are also times when one of our wine purveyors will have an enticing promotional offer on some wines that we just have to buy. The point is, if you are like most people, you will under estimate how much wine you will be storing.
So how do you estimate how many bottles you are going to store? There is no hard and fast rule, but you can do better than pulling a number out of the air. First, take the time to see how many bottles you already have. How long did it take you to put this collection together? For example, if you have 100 bottles and it took about 2 years to collect them, you are “saving” about one bottle of wine per week. In my experience, that number will at least double once you have a cellar/storage unit.
The real issue, however, is how long are you going to hold the wines before drinking them? If you like to collect French Burgundies and Italian Barolo’s, then you should plan on holding the wines for an average of five years or more before drinking them. If you use five years as the average, you will need room for 600 bottles just to store your “keepers”. If you like to drink New World wines that do not require long holding times to reach their potential, the average cellar time for your wine might be around 2.5 years. For an average cellaring time of 2.5 years, you would need a storage capacity of 350 bottles for your collection.
Now you have to make room for your everyday wine. If you drink one bottle of wine per night and you like variety, every day wines will need about another 100 bottles worth of storage space. If you want to include some space for buying wines that are a great deal, you might want to increase the by another 50 bottles.
This can be reduced to an equation that you can use to determine the wine storage capacity that will work for you.
Required storage capacity = # Currently in collection + Everyday drinking requirements + (Holding time in years*Bottles collected per year)
Once you have determined the bottle storage capacity that you require, it is time to look at the three main storage options: (1) offsite storage, (2) free standing wine cabinets, and (3) transforming part of your existing home into a wine cellar.
(1) In most major cities, private storage facilities have added climate controlled wine storage lockers and rooms. The lockers start at about $50 per month for a 15 cubic foot locker (2.5’ X 2.5’ X 2.5’). 10’ X 10’ rooms run around $300 per month. Typically these vendors offer very good temperature and humidity control along with excellent security. Most offer 24 hour access, but unless the storage facility is right next door, you still have to get in your car and drive there. These facilities might be more than you need, but they can be handy for someone investing in wine or in the wine business. If you are buying and selling wine, the quantity of wine that you have in your possession might change rapidly. Facilities that offer immediate “move-in” and month to month leases can bridge gaps in storage requirements.
(2) Free standing wine cabinets are offered by a wide array of manufacturers. Some of the most popular makers include Vinotemp, Eurocave, le Cache, Americave, BYO, and Vintage Keepers. Wine cabinets come in all shapes, sizes, and prices, so there is bound to be one that will meet your needs. If you have already determined the bottle capacity that you are looking for, you are ready to consider several other important factors.
First, what are you willing to pay? Prices tend to be about $10 per bottle of capacity. Frequently, the stated price includes shipping and delivery. Be sure to check, shipping and delivery can be hundreds of dollars. If you want to save money and are handy with tools, you might want to consider a cabinet from BYO. These cabinets cost between $3 and $5 per bottle of storage, but they require you to put them together. BYO claims their systems can be assembled in less than one hour. The cost of these wine cabinets typically does not include shipping and delivery.
I have purchase three wine cabinets, and in all three cases, the number of bottle the cabinet would actually hold was less than the number stated by the manufacturer. There are several legitimate reasons for this including irregular bottle shapes and large format bottles. I think there is also some unnecessary optimism on the part of the manufacturer. I suggest you reduce the manufacturer’s bottle capacity by 10%.
Besides price there are several other important considerations, such as where are you going to put the thing? Depending on the bottle capacity, some of these units get rather large.
You also have to consider noise. One common complaint about free standing systems is that they are loud, louder than your average refrigerator. I recommend that you error on the side of caution and assume the cabinet will make some noise and put it somewhere the noise won’t bother you. That being said, wine cabinets should not be kept in the garage, particularly in humid climates. Because the climate in most garages is not controlled, the humidity will be higher than in your home. Condensate on the wine cabinet will cause swelling and eventually failure of the pressed wood products used to construct most wine cabinets.
The last thing that I will suggest you consider, is the way the wine cabinet looks. Wine cabinets that hold hundreds of bottles are big pieces of furniture, so be sure you like it visually.
(3) Finally, the third option is to construct your own cellar. This requires considerable planning, and you can read our advice on building a home wine cellar.