Cheaper by the dozen doesn’t just apply to doughnuts. If you buy wine
by the case, you need to store it–and if you do it right you’ll have
fine-tasting wines to enjoy for years to come. Many white wines can
be stored from two to five years, while red wines will last–and generally
improve–for five to 20 years, sometimes longer.
Keep the temperature of your wine closet, refrigerator or cellar between 50 and 65 degrees F (10 and 18 C) for red wines, 45 to 60 degrees F (7 to 15 C) for whites, or as directed by a vintner or wine merchant. Store your white wines closer to the floor and reds higher up. Cooler temperatures generally won’t harm wines, but can delay their development.
Maintain a relative humidity in your cellar or storage area of about 70 percent for cork health.
Store bottles on their sides so that the corks stay in contact with the wine. Keep the area dark, if possible, but definitely out of direct sunlight. Use incandescent lights: Fluorescent bulbs give off more ultraviolet light, which can penetrate bottles.
Use untreated redwood for storage bins or racks. It won’t deteriorate in cool, humid wine-cellar conditions.
Hang identifying tags on the necks so the bottles don’t need to be disturbed when you want to know what bottle is what. Keep bottles of the same vintage together as much as possible.
Use many small bins rather than a few large ones. Racks that hold individual bottles are ideal.
Think strategically when you arrange your cellar. Keep the more frequently used wines by the door, and the long-term investments in the cooler, darker corners.
Know what you own and be able to find it quickly. Make a database of your cellar’s inventory. Give each wine a location number and listing, including the wine’s name, vintage, producer, appellation, vineyard name, region, county, type (red, white, rose’, sparkling), quantity owned, price paid per bottle, value (at latest estimate) and size of bottle (half-bottle, magnum). Add tasting and pairing notes, and keep the file outside of the cellar so you don’t have to disturb the bottles to check.
Store wine in the garage if where you live doesn’t get beastly hot in the summer. Garages tend to be cool, dark and free of ultraviolet light–ideal for wine. See 90 Organize the Garage.
Get a freestanding wine refrigerator if your house doesn’t have a basement, an appropriate cellar or a garage. A wine refrigerator will hold between 24 and 200 bottles under ideal conditions.
See 297 Plan a Week of Menus, 328 Set Up a Bar and 322 Impress a Date.
For a complete listing of wines and how long to store each type, consult sites such as CellarNotes.net or Wine.com.
If you don’t have an area with ideal conditions for wine storage, choose a location that isn’t subject to dramatic swings in temperature.
If you have a large or valuable collection–and you don’t require daily access to it–investigate a wine collection storage service, which will store your wine off site in perfect conditions.
When you buy wine (especially reds) ask the wine shop or winery how long it should age. Make a “Drink in 2010” note in your database so that you drink wines before they start to go downhill.