How To Store Wine at Home Properly Without a Cellar

Do you enjoy building up your wine “stash”? Do you seek out certain wines?  Do you buy wine with a plan to keep the bottles for a few years? Do you lovingly organize the bottles?  Congratulations, you are a collector!

Often times, people think of wine collectors as staunch, uptight folks with a lot of money and a literal cavern of wine.  I’ll let you in on a little secret…you don’t have to have a lot of money or even a wine cellar.  The reality is we are all collectors. Some of us are more serious than others, for sure, but there is nothing wrong with collecting within our means.

Here are a few tips to help, if you don’t have a massive cavern, that is.

Is that wine age-worthy?

The average wine drinker purchases wines that are “ready to drink”, meaning they do not need any additional aging to help them improve. About 90% of the wines produced are in this category. But don’t confuse “ready to drink” wines with inexpensive wines. There are some pricey “ready to drink” wines on the market with exceptional quality.

A “ready to drink” wine has a storage time of 8 – 12 months without any quality loss.

So how do you know if your wine has age-ability? Most of the time if you are wanting to collect wine, you aren’t going to your local grocery store and grabbing the sale items. You will probably seek out a wine shop or a warehouse wine store that has a healthy sized wine department. Usually (but not necessarily always), they have some knowledgeable staff that can help guide you through what is worth storing and what isn’t.  Don’t forget that if you have local wineries near you, they are a great source of information on which of their wines would adapt well to aging.

Finding and buying the wine is the fun part.  But what do you do with all of your newfound wine booty to keep it from spoiling?  You’re in luck because I’ve got a few tips to help.  If you don’t have a massive wine cavern, that is.

Typically, when you keep or store a wine, it’s a red wine of sorts.  But, frankly, you can apply any of the storage techniques to white wines as well.

Get the temperature right.

Temperature is probably the biggest factor when it comes to storing wine.Too warm for too long will ruin the wine by maturing it too fast.  However, if it’s too cold for too long, the wine won’t mature properly. When storing those future collectibles, always make sure that your temp is constant or near constant.

Proper storage temperature for wine would be around 45° – 60°Fahrenheit.  And most collectors will tell you that 55° is the true sweet spot when storing wine for a long period of time. Keep in mind, wine should never go below 25° or above 86°. Don’t sweat minor fluctuations of a few degrees. But, whenever possible, consistent temperature is key. If it is consistent at 70°, that’s fine.

If you have big temperature swings, as wine it sits in the bottle, it will expand and contract as it goes from hot to cold. When too hot, it may seep through the cork or start pushing the cork out and allow too much oxygen in. This will result in an over oxidized wine.

Nice even temp and time is what you are trying to achieve.

Location, location, location.

Where you store your wine is very important.  And, if you’re creative, the possibilities are endless.

A closet that has a wall to the outside might work as long as it is properly insulated. If you have a thermometer, let it sit in there and check the temp throughout the day. Or feel the wall in the closet that is the outside wall, if it’s hot, that’s probably not the best place for your wine.  If the sun hits that wall on a regular basis, the temps will fluctuate from day to night and ultimately ruin your wine. You want to avoid these fluctuations as much as possible.

Any inside closet will work. Store the bottles in a case box or an old milk crate.  Put them on the floor tucked away in a corner. That way you won’t see them all the time and be tempted to open one up before it’s time.

The closet method also helps to keep UV light away from your bottles. UV rays will cause an accelerated aging and degrading effect on your wine.  That’s why 99.99% of red wine is in colored glass. It’s like wearing sunglasses.

Assuming the bottles are sealed with a natural cork, you will want to store your wine on its side. That way you keep the cork wet and expanded. You really don’t have to lie synthetic cork and screw tops on their sides, but this is the most efficient use of space.

Got a basement?

If you are lucky enough to have a basement, feel free to call it your “wine cellar”. (This impresses friends at parties!)  Buy a wine rack that is expandable. They usually look like giant Lincoln Logs, if you remember those. This allows you the flexibility to expand as your collection expands. Or, you can take it apart easily as you start to drink through your collection. Nothing is sadder than a wine rack that is half full.

Usually basements stay at a pretty consistent temp. You really don’t need to worry about minor fluctuations. Remember, you are trying to avoid large temperature swings.

To fridge or not to fridge

A wine refrigerator is a great investment for long term aging of your bottles.  It’s not cheap but if it’s in your budget, its worth checking out.

Fridges come in various shapes and sizes and can usually be purchased used as many people start to upgrade to larger versions. The great thing about a wine fridge is that they have a pre-set temperature. Just hit the red button (55°) or the white button (45°). Not only do they keep the temperature constant, a wine fridge also keeps the humidity regulated. The more “techie” models will have two climate zones; a zone for white wines and a zone for the reds. Expect to pay a bit more for those models.

Another bonus these refrigerators provide, is they are vibration free. It’s weird to think that this would be a concern, but it is, kind of. Vibrations will upset sediment that is gathering when aging.  You want those particulates to settle because when you are ready to open that bottle after many years, it won’t be cloudy. So, unless you live under a subway or train station, your wine will probably be ok.

Plus, most of them are designed to work with a rooms aesthetics. Different wood finishes, colored glass or no glass, metal, epoxy… the list goes on. They have become pieces of art in some cases.

Are you a do-it-yourselfer?  Have an extra fridge lying around?  Seems like getting creative and making your own wine fridge would be a good idea.

A regular refrigerator does keep things cold.  The problem is, for wine bottles, it also keeps things dry to prevent mold or mildew from forming on your food. This will eventually dry out the corks in your bottles. Humidity helps keep those corks wet which is what you want. Optimum humidity should be between 60% – 68%. So, although a creative idea, renovating an old fridge might not be the best option.

The takeaway.

As you can see, there are a lot of different options for storing wines.  I can’t tell you the ultimate solution for your situation…you’ll have to do some homework and good old fashioned trial and error to figure that out.

The main things to remember are the three K’s:

Keep it dark.  Keep it coolish.  Keep the temperature consistent.

Oh, don’t forget…don’t live under a subway or train station.

Happy collecting.

For further info on wine storage see the following articles each published and vetted by our lead editor and wine specialist, Rob Wyngard.

How To Save Canned Wine
How Long Does Unopened Screw Top Wine Last
How Long Does Canned Wine Last
Should Screw Top Wine Be Stored On Its Side
Why Is Cork Used To Seal Wine Bottles
What Temperature Should Wine Be Stored At?