Key things to remember when storing wine, plus tips on how to create your own storage — from DIY options to a fully-outfitted wine cellar.
* This article first appeared in https://www.firstleaf.club/wine-school/article/how-to-build-wine-storage
A bottle of wine stored in your home is a gift waiting to be opened. You may be waiting for a special occasion, that perfect food pairing, or a rainy weekend afternoon — but when that day finally comes, you want to be sure that the wine is drinkable.
The flavor of wine can be ruined by improper storage. Here’s how to store your wine so you have the ideal drinking experience, every time.
Wine Storage Basics
The basics of wine storage involve position, light, and temperature.
Wine must be stored horizontally. Horizontal storage ensures that the cork stays moist, and therefore stays expanded. If the cork dries out, it will shrink, and outside air can enter the bottle and ruin the wine.
Wine should never be exposed to direct sunlight or high temperatures. When wine gets too hot, even for a few minutes, it will lose flavor.
The ideal temperature for wine storage is 55 degrees Fahrenheit. For short-term wine storage, anything between 45 and 65 degrees is acceptable (as long as the temperature doesn’t fluctuate too much).
Wine that you plan on storing for months or years should go in a refrigerated wine cooler or wine cellar.
These rules apply to red wine, white wine, and sparkling wine. You can keep all three types in the same place, you don’t need different storage temperatures — though each does have different serving temperatures.
What Are the Types of Wine Storage?
Wine storage options fall into three categories: wine refrigerators, wine racks, and wine cellars.
A wine refrigerator is the best choice for people who want foolproof wine storage. These specialty refrigerators are designed for wine with dimensions and shelving that match standard wine bottles. Some also have special slots for large or oddly-shaped bottles.
With a wine refrigerator, you simply plug it in, insert your wine, and close the door. As long as the power is on, your wine is being properly stored.
The drawback of a wine refrigerator is the cost. While an entry-level wine fridge that stores 6 to 8 bottles will cost about $150, the more bottles you want to store, the higher the price — wine refrigerators that store 100 bottles go for $2,000 or more. You also have to pay for the electricity to keep the refrigerator running. Wine refrigerators are fairly efficient, but running one will add at least a few dollars to your monthly utility bill.
A wine rack is an inexpensive wine storage option, and a way to add some flair to your kitchen or bar decor.
Wine racks come in many interesting shapes, sizes, and styles from brushed metal industrial looks, to rustic wood pallet varieties. If you’re crafty, you can even make your own.
A wine rack should be used for wines you plan to drink soon. Unless you keep your wine rack in a wine cellar, it’s not a good option for long-term storage. The wine in your kitchen wine rack is subject to the temperatures in your kitchen — on average, a room temperature of 65 to 75 degrees (and hotter if you happen to be cooking). Exposure to temperatures this high is okay for a few weeks, but over the long run, it can turn your wine’s flavors flat or sweet.
The term may conjure images of a stone dungeon, but a wine cellar can be any room you choose to keep cool and dry enough to store wine.
Long-term storage of wine isn’t just about maintaining the wine’s flavor. It can also be about enhancing it. That’s why wines from decades past are often much more expensive than last year’s bottles. Chemical reactions during the aging process cause flavors to develop and change for the better, but that’s only if the aging is done properly.
Typically, wine cellars must be heavily insulated and outfitted with cooling systems to keep the temperature low and relatively steady. Large swings in temperature can cause the flavor of your wine to change for the worse.
How to Build a Wine Rack
A basic wine rack should allow your bottles to rest horizontally and should contain secure compartments for every bottle.
Circular Cuts Wine Rack
This DIY wooden wine rack from Craft Box Girls is a 4-bottle design that would be perfect for a kitchen counter.
The circular cuts are measured to make the wine easy to insert and also secure the bottles in case the rack is bumped. This isn’t a difficult project, but it does require specialized woodworking tools such as a miter saw and a hole cutter.
Leather Wine Rack
This wall-mounted wine rack from Fiskars is a 3-bottle design. The frame of the rack is wood, and the wine is secured with leather straps. Storing the wine on your kitchen or dining room wall frees up countertop space.
The project is a good use for scrap or reclaimed wood, and doesn’t require any power tools.
Copper Pipe and Leather Wine Rack
This contemporary DIY wine rack from A Bubbly Life features leather compartments within a copper frame. The copper tubing is inexpensive — probably less than the bottles of wine you’ll be storing on them.
This project does require a pipe cutter, or a miter saw if you have one.
Countertop Wine Rack
This classic restaurant-style wine rack by April Wilkerson uses intersecting wood pieces for a compact 8-bottle rack.
This is a classic woodworking project that doesn’t rely on metal fasteners. Every piece fits into invisible slits that are cut with a jigsaw or bandsaw.
Wine Rack Storage Cube
This large cube rack featured on Instructables Workshop is a good way to store a lot of bottles in one place. It’s really two separate projects — the exterior cube and the interlocking x-shaped piece of wood within it.
You’ll need a Kreg Jig (a special tool that creates pocket holes) to connect the pieces in the cube section. Notches to connect the interlocking pieces for the x-section can be made with a jigsaw or bandsaw.
IKEA Wine Rack
If you’d rather leave the woodworking to the experts, Homedit has some ideas for turning prefabricated IKEA storage products into wine storage.
Narrow IKEA bookshelves are a decent fit for wine bottles, or you can subdivide storage cabinets with small pieces of wood to create wine-specific storage. IKEA also sells wine storage units as part of their kitchen systems.
How to Make a Wine Cellar
Wine racks are meant to store bottles for a few weeks at room temperature. If you plan to store bottles for months or years, you should protect your wine’s flavor with a cellar.
What Are the Ideal Wine Cellar Conditions?
A wine cellar should ensure the following conditions.
A consistent temperature, as close as possible to 55 degrees Fahrenheit
A humidity level of 50% to 70%
Dark and vibration-free storage
Horizontal bottle storage
How to Choose a Location for Your Wine Cellar
The ideal location for a wine cellar is in a below-ground part of your structure where the ground will help regulate the temperature. If you don’t have any below-ground space, you’ll want to pick the room in your house that’s easiest to keep cool and humid. It should also be small, isolated from exterior walls, and have as few windows as possible.
Remember that the larger the room, the more you’ll have to spend on cooling it. Some people divide existing rooms into two or end up using a closet for wine storage.
Planning a Wine Cellar
Building your own wine cellar is all about figuring out how to meet the ideal wine cellar conditions mentioned above. If you happen to live in a temperate climate in a home with a deep, windowless basement, you may just need to set up a few racks in the basement and make sure to keep the door shut. This would be called a “passive cooling” system. Nature does the work for you.
But the majority of us live in areas where the temperature rises above 75 degrees or gets below 45 degrees — even in a basement if we have one. These extreme temperatures will damage wine.
In this case, you need an “active cooling” system. It’s what most modern wine cellars have, and a key choice in building your wine cellar.
Wine Cooling Systems
Wine cooling systems are essentially air conditioners designed for wine bottles instead of people. They regulate humidity as well as temperature. These units aren’t cheap. They start at around $1,000 and go up from there, based on how large the space is that you are trying to keep cool.
There are self-contained wine cooling systems that vent to an outside room (similar to an air conditioning unit). But you can also buy units that connect with the ducts in your home, using the overall HVAC system to regulate the temperature and humidity in your wine cellar.
Framing a Wine Cellar
If you are framing out a wine cellar you can choose to use 2 by 6 wall studs rather than the traditional 2 by 4 studs. Using the wider wall studs creates more space for insulation in the walls.
Insulation and Vapor Barriers
Your wine cooling system will be much more effective if the walls of the cellar are insulated properly. The cooler the ambient temperature, the less work the cooling system has to do.
But insulation also helps to protect the structural integrity of your home. Because your cellar shares walls with rooms that will be warmer, the spaces between these rooms — within your walls — can fill with condensation and eventually mold. Insulation, plus the extra step of a vapor barrier of polyurethane sheeting or closed-cell foam, can reduce the amount of moisture in the walls and in the air.
Finish for Walls and Flooring
Moisture buildup is the enemy of your wine cellar, so be sure to use finishes on all surfaces. Unfinished concrete walls and floors, for example, are extremely porous. Talk with an expert at your local paint or hardware store about the most effective finishes for the surfaces in your cellar.
The All-Important Door
Your wine cellar can have the perfect insulation, be sealed against unwanted moisture, and have a several thousand-dollar wine cooling system humming away — but if air or moisture leaks through the door, all your work is wasted.
The wine cellar should not have an ordinary door. Make sure to choose something thick that allows for weather-stripping to keep the cellar sealed as much as possible.
It’s a good idea to investigate the cellar for airflow or air leaks after everything has been installed.
Wine Storage on a Budget: Let the Pros Handle It
What is the most cost-effective solution for storing large quantities of wine? Leave it to the professionals. A monthly wine subscription service like Firstleaf gives you the convenience of having outstanding wines delivered to your home on your schedule. Professionals store the wine at proper temperatures until they ship it to you, ready to open and enjoy responsibly.
This article appears on Firstleaf at www.firstleaf.club/wine-