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Home storage: a personal cellar (or closet)

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Once your cellar begins to grow, you’ll need to figure out how you want to store wine. Of course, ideally you would have a custom cellar built, underneath your house, with temperature and humidity controls installed by professionals. But for most people, this simply isn’t viable – either because of space, cost, or practical concerns.

 

The next best option is to purchase a large free-standing wine cooler, which will allow you to store wine in different temperature-controlled regions. These refrigerators range from small, table-top units that hold up to 18 bottles, to larger, wall-sized units that hold up to 144 bottles. If you have an extensive collection, however, these may not be viable.

 

In that case, it’s good to understand what exactly you want to do – and what you want to avoid – when storing your wine. Even a closet can act as a serviceable wine cellar, so long as you’re mindful of a few basic rules.


The most important aspect to storing wine is keeping the temperature constant. Ideally, you’d keep it at around 54°F (12.2°C), but anything less than 75°F (24°C) will do. Constancy is the most important part, though. Even if you’re within that range, if your temperature is fluctuating by ten degrees a day (or even seasonally), your wine will suffer. Changing temperatures will force air through the cork, and the wines will breathe in too much oxygen, aging them prematurely, and ultimately degrading the wine. A warmer, but stable, cellar is far preferable to a cooler, wildly fluctuating, cellar.


Bottles should always be stored on their sides (or, if for some reason that’s not possible, upside down). Storing a wine upright keeps the wine away from the cork, and over time it may dry out and crack. This will allow oxygen in to the wine, again degrading it and making it age prematurely. If you’re laying wines on their side for extended periods of time, you may want to store them with the label facing up, so that when you pull out the wine you can assess any sediment that has built up over time and decide whether you need to decant the wine.


Wine should always be stored in the dark, and never in direct sunlight. Most wines are bottled in dark glass to help minimize the impact of light, but over time even small amounts of UV radiation can damage the wine. Sun damage generally manifests as an unpleasant smell in the wine.


Humidity is also something to watch out for. Too little humidity and you increase the chances of the cork drying out, and also speed up evaporation of your wine (which over decades can lead to a noticeable loss of wine in the bottle). Too much humidity (over 70%) and you will start to see the growth of molds that can damage your wine.


Finally, try to avoid moving your wines more than you need to. Shaking a wine will stir up sediments that may have settled out as part of the aging process. Obviously transporting your wines is to be expected, but try to make sure you don’t put your cellar near large vibrating appliances like washing machines or refrigerators.

 

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