Wine Storage 101

Don't have a climate-controlled wine cellar? These simple storage tips will keep your favorite vinos in peak condition without renovating your basement.
Shelves in pantry for bottle storage

Bottle Storage

Curved cradles turn an ordinary pantry shelf into a beverage storage center, allowing you to store wine bottles on their sides without fear of them falling off the shelf. Photo courtesy of transFORM

Photo by: Krause, Johansen

Krause, Johansen

Curved cradles turn an ordinary pantry shelf into a beverage storage center, allowing you to store wine bottles on their sides without fear of them falling off the shelf. Photo courtesy of transFORM
By: Lisa Frederick

For serious wine collectors, wine storage is a full-time hobby, with specialized equipment galore. But what about the average homeowner? “I encourage people not to get too fussy,” says Birmingham, Ala., wine expert Scott Jones of Jones Is Thirsty. “You don’t have to overthink it … At the end of the day, 99 percent of all the wine that’s made in the world is meant to enjoy right away.” That means you don’t need to shell out for a pricey wine refrigerator or remodel your basement into a climate-controlled cellar — just follow Jones’ simple tips below. Cheers!

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  • Heat and light are wine’s two worst foes. “Find some place where it’s dark and relatively cool,” Jones says. “In the laundry room, on top of the refrigerator, next to the range are not ideal spots.” His go-to suggestions are pantries and closets, but any place that shields the wine from windows and heat sources will work. Jones doesn’t suggest using built-in kitchen cabinet wine racks with open niches, which break both the light and heat rules. “If you are having a party and you want to put your red wines in there, that’s fine, but they’re not meant for long-term storage,” he says.
  • Consistency is key. There’s no need to obsess over keeping wine at a certain temperature, Jones says: “Anything between 50 degrees and 70 degrees is fine.” Unless you live in a hot climate with no air conditioning, storing it at room temperature should suffice. What is important: avoiding wide temperature fluctuations. “That causes the wine to expand and contract,” Jones explains. “It can cause the liquid to push the cork out, and can cause oxygen to get into the wine, which causes the wine to age too quickly and turn into vinegar.”
  • Don’t keep wine in the fridge long-term. “The problem with the refrigerator is that it’s an incredibly dry environment,” Jones says, adding that specialized wine refrigerators are designed specifically to keep humidity higher. “If you store wine in the refrigerator over the long haul, it can dry the cork out. A couple of weeks is fine, but you don’t want to chuck the wine in there for two months.”
  • No-frills storage works beautifully. “Unless you really are committed to storing wine for investment purposes, or are a real aficionado, just keep it simple,” Jones says. The only requirement is a rack or cubby that holds bottles horizontal or sloping downward, allowing liquid to touch the cork. “It keeps the cork moist and keeps any oxygen from getting in,” Jones explains. That goes for screw tops too. Simple pine crates, widely available online, are a great bet, but you can also use a shoe rack or other sturdy rack. Visit your local bed and bath retailer or home improvement store for possibilities that work with your space. 

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