Wine is a millenary drink. The earliest records of winemaking in the world go back to 7000 B.C. Wine culture is widely spread throughout different cultures around the world. Besides its festive connotation, it’s had many uses, from healing wounds to curing stomach ailments. The wine universe is vast and diverse with hundreds of different grape varieties, styles, terroirs, and traditional winemaking methods.
It’s such a noble beverage that, if stored properly, its properties improve and can last centuries. (Did you know that there’s an egg-shaped barrel in France containing drinkable wine from the year 1472?) Today, wine-aging techniques have been thoroughly improved and mastered so that people can store and age this joyful liquid in their homes.
We contacted top-notch wine connoisseurs and producers to ask them for their advice on the best ways to store wine at home. This is what they told us:
What considerations do you recommend taking into account when planning to set up a wine cellar space at home?
- Budget. Are you converting or constructing a cellar? Most closets can be converted to wine cellars. Wine cellars are more affordable than most people think if you consider a per bottle budget. As wine ages, it goes up in value in most cases. Even the highest quality cellars can be built for under $20/bottle, and simple cellars can be built for under $3 per bottle. Wine can easily double in value within a few short years.
- Choosing the space. Ensure there are no air leaks or sunlight so that temperature and humidity can be controlled. This may mean insulating the floor, ceiling, and walls. Ensure the door is airtight and it is solid door. What type of security will you have for your cellar? Do you want it hidden or easily accessible? Most people tend to want to have a lot of glass to show off their collection however, light is the enemy of wine. Is your room for storage only, or will you want a working area or even a serving area?
- Power. How will you ensure the constant temperature and humidity of the room? Are you looking to install a cooling system? Where is lighting best placed? Will you be setting up an alarm system for intruders and temperature control? How will you “hide” the visibility of your equipment?
- Choose your style. Wood is always best as it is softer than metals and is an insulator. Dark colors are recommended over light colors. There are fewer chances of ruining labels with wood shelving. If you should have a wine go into refermentation, will you be able to clean the area, or would you have permanent staining?
- Shelving. You will also need to consider the size of your collection. Individual wine storage is recommended. What size will your wine bottles be? Consider that not all 750 ml bottles are the same size. You may want to add in Magnums or other sizes. Some may come in their own packaging, such as wooden boxes. Will you have enough space for storage? Although many wines now do not require to be laid on their side, you may encounter some with an old-style cork where the cork must remain moist in order to prevent the cork from drying out and oxidizing the wine. How will you will arranging your wines? Age? Varietal? How much are you planning on investing/adding to your collection? Will you need a storage area for decanters, glasses and other tools?
- Labeling and identifying of wine. Do you keep a journal/inventory? There is nothing more heartbreaking than opening a bottle only to learn that it is past its prime. Research your wines. Contact the winery if you can’t find reliable information. It is most important to understand when is the best time to open that bottle. Wine has a cycle of life which we refer to as adolescent to senior. And with all living, it will come to a period of the end of life.
- Buying wine. Consider the care and custody of the wine before you purchase it. Ideally, you want to buy the wine very young and direct from the winery, caring for it during transport. Wine can easily be “cooked” in high temperatures during transport. Stores don’t always understand how to store wine, and I have often found beautiful wines on display in a store window. I recommend buying a case direct from the winery. Once you open that bottle, you are committed. If you have several more bottles, you have another chance next year. And if it is the best bottle you have ever tasted, there is another bottle to enjoy shortly afterward.
40 Knots Winery
Which factors should be considered for choosing the location of your wine cellar, and what would be the ideal spot at home to build it?
The first question to ask yourself is, will this be temperature controlled or not? If not, the location must be somewhere dark and cool, ideally with constant temperature year-round. Think, what’s the most underground cave-like area of my house?
If the cellar is temperature controlled, then you have more flexibility. The next question to ask is how large of a cellar are you trying to build? Smaller cellars can blend in with the house (under the staircase or inside a large cabinet). Larger aspirations require more space and perhaps their own room.
As far as location goes, you may consider choosing a spot close to where you’ll be opening most bottles i.e. near the kitchen; this would save the steps of walking back and forth with your prized possessions.
Lastly, we’d recommend locating the wine cellar on a solid foundation, with minimal risks of damage in the event of an earthquake; you don’t want to see your precious possessions wind up in pieces!
Jesse and Cassie
Which features must be installed in a basement wine cellar to ensure the proper aging of wine?
When installing a wine cellar in your basement, several features are necessary to create the appropriate conditions for properly aging wine. The temperature and humidity of your wine cellar are the two most important factors to consider when planning your space. If either of these factors is off, that could mean a major catastrophe for your collection and wallet. Your wine cellar must be insulated and temperature controlled to ensure proper ambient conditions. To accomplish this, the walls, ceiling, and floor need insulation, and the entrance must have a seal. In addition to insulation, a vapor barrier is necessary to prevent the outside humidity levels from altering the humidity in the room. A cooling unit, preferably with a built-in humidifier, is the final feature needed to create the perfect wine cellar. If your cooling unit does not have a humidifier, then a separate one is necessary to control the humidity in the room. If you can, opt for a wine bottle thermometer probe to keep in several of your bottles to ensure they remain at a constant temperature.
What are the proper temperature, flooring, and lighting for a wine cellar?
Glass of Bubbly focuses on the wonderful world of Sparkling Wines, we often get to see some of the most amazing wine cellars around the world, and each has some constant factors that make for storing Sparkling Wine perfectly, it comes down to Temperature, Light, and Position.
The best temperature to store Sparkling Wine is around 50℉ or 10°C, but an important note is it must be constant. You don’t want it fluctuating from cold to hot, as heat accelerates the aging of the liquid inside the bottle.
Long exposure to Natural Sunlight is an enemy to Sparkling Wine, as it can cause a ‘light strike’ which damages the fizz inside. Clear bottles are far more at risk of this, so if you can, always store your Sparkling Wines in darkness.
The Position of the bottle is just as important. Never store them standing up, always lie them down, this way it allows the liquid inside to keep in contact with the cork. If the cork drys up, its more likely to get negatively impacted by oxidization, which can spoil your wine and even cause some of it to evaporate over time.
The lower you can go in your home for a wine cellar the better. That’s why basements make a perfect location. If not, under the stairs can be a good alternative.
It’s a great experience to have your own Wine Cellar, being able to create a library of bottles from which you can explore.
Glass of Bubbly
What is the best way to maintain a consistent wine cellar temperature?
Aside from having a temperature controlled wine cellar, storing your wine in a cave, or a basement, is the closest you will get to the ideal storing temperature of 55 degrees. Storing a wine at a steady temperature can be more important than the exact temperature. For example, you don’t want to store your wine in the garage, if the temperature fluctuates from 45 degrees at night but 80 degrees during the day.
Founder + TV Host
What happens to wine when stored at room temperature?
Wines should not be stored at room temperature unless you are planning on drinking the wine soon. Wine ages more quickly when the temperature is at room temperature or higher. Wine should be stored at around 14 degrees Celcius. If you are planning on drinking the bottle you purchased in the next 1-2 months then room temperature should not degrade the wine too much. If you purchase an expensive bottle of wine to celebrate some occasion in the future, you would want to keep it in the best condition, so I recommend storing it in a cooler location in your house. When you do decide to open your bottle of wine, put it in your fridge for 30 minutes, regardless of whether it is red, white, or rose. All wines benefit from a bit of chilling.
And besides storing the wine at a cooler temperature, the bottles should be stored in a darker area as light also prematurely ages wine. Buying wines that are in colored bottles, typically brown or green, helps reduce the aging effects of light. If you cannot afford a wine storage unit, keeping your wine in your basement, which is cooler than the main floor will help your wine age more gracefully. If the wine bottle uses a cork stopper, lay the bottle down so that the cork stays wet. When a cork dries out, it will let in more air which will age the wine. Wines with screw caps can stand upright or on their side. I hope these hints help keep your wines in top shape so you can enjoy them to the fullest.
How can improper wine storage in attics, lockers, and shipping containers affect the quality of wine?
Temperature, humidity, and light are the three most important factors in wine storage. It is always best to find a place that is consistently cool, dark, and with the right amount of humidity. Wine should never be left anywhere with temperatures above 70° F or below 40° F. Even 30 minutes in a hot car will quickly “cook” a wine, turning its fresh fruit flavors into a stewed mess.
One great option for long-term wine storage is a dedicated wine cellar built by professionals. A properly constructed cellar provides a temperature that hovers around 50 to 60° F and with a humidity level between 55 to 70 percent. Humidity control is important as too little and the cork will dry out and expose the wine to oxygen; too much and the wine will take on moldy smells. The space should also be dimly lit, without natural sunlight, since UV rays can cause a wine to age prematurely. The best choice for lighting a wine cellar is LED bulbs which, in contrast to fluorescent, halogen, and incandescent, emit minimal heat and no UV light.
However, if your home does not have enough space to build a cellar, a wine refrigerator is an excellent alternative. Wine refrigerators are designed to maintain consistent temperature and humidity, and come with UV-protecting glass to prevent light damage.
The Wine Chef
What are the specific requirements needed to properly store and preserve wine in a wine cellar at home?
Wine bottles should be stored properly to let them age at their fullest and to prevent them from going bad. In order to do that, they must be stored with the right conditions.
The best temperature to store wine is around 55°F but they can be safely stored between approximately 45°F to 65°F. The wines stored at higher temperatures will age faster than wines stored at lower temperatures. This is true for both white and red wines. Some people may prefer their white wines colder and red wines warmer though, so the temperature can be adjusted as desired.
It is important to store wines not only at the correct temperature but also at the correct humidity. The best humidity for your storage is roughly between 60% and 75%. Storing the wines at too low a percentage could cause the corks to dry out potentially causing a failure with the seal in the bottle and the wine to go bad.
Besides temperature and humidity though, the darkness in which the wines are stored is vital. Exposure to light can cause a wine to change flavors and aromas. This is the reason most wine bottles are a darker color.
The best way to accomplish the correct wine storage needs is to use a wine cooler because it can properly maintain the same temperature and humidity. The wine cooler also can maintain the lighting requirement as long as the wine cooler is kept out of the sunlight.
The next best way to store wines without a wine cooler would be to find a place in the home that has the same cooler and darker conditions. A basement or closet could be that location.
The last thing to properly store and preserve wine is to store them on their sides to prevent the cork from drying out. If the cork begins to dry out and crack, oxygen could enter the bottle causing oxidation and the wine to go bad.
Following these methods will allow the wine to age gracefully.
Texas Wine Lover
Which environmental factors can spoil your wine collection if they are not stored properly?
If you like aged wine, it is inevitable that you would start buying and storing the wine until the future date – 5, 10, 20, 30 years in the future, who knows. Keeping wine safe and sound is actually not very difficult, but unfortunately, spoiling it by improper storage is also quite easy. Here are a few “elements” which you need to take into account if you want your wine to age gracefully and peacefully.
Even if you don’t have a full-blown cellar or a wine fridge, you can still keep your wine safe. Constant temperature is key. Yes, the ideal aging temperature for the wine is 55F, but even if you store the wine in a place where the temperature fluctuates very little – a basement, a closet – even if the temperature will be 65F or 68F, your wine will do just fine. Make sure you will avoid large temperature swings – the kitchen is one of the worst places to store your wine long-term in the open. Also, make sure to keep your wine away from any heat sources, such as radiators or heating floors – again, constant temperature is the key, but not heating your wine constantly is yet another key. Hey, and while we are on it – NEVER live the wine in the trunk of your car for an extended period of time in the summer or in the winter – this is a sure way to kill any wine quickly.
You want to avoid the direct sunlight in the place where you store your wine. First, constant sunlight is just not good for the wine – this is wine majority of the wine which you might want to age is sold in dark glass bottles. But also direct sunlight will act as a heat source – and we already talked about it before.
Vibration ages the wines prematurely. Make sure you are not keeping your collection next to the pump, furnace, house fan or any other places which might experience the vibration.
You want constant humidity ideally, to help preserve cork and labels. Excessive humidity will not ruin the wines (if it is not associated with the high temperature), but might destroy labels and might lead to the growth of mold. Super-low humidity might negatively affect the corks, and if the cork will crack and let oxygen in, your wine will age prematurely or simply oxidize. A humidity of around 60% is ideal for wine storage. If it goes up and down a bit, it is not a big problem too, but you really want to keep it close to that 60%.
That’s it! Constant temperature, absence of direct sunlight and vibration, and proper humidity will let you enjoy your prized collection for many years to come.
What is the proper way to store screwcap and corked wine bottles, should they be stored the same?
The best storage for wine is a dark and cool place with balanced humidity. The ideal temperature is around 55F which can be accomplished with a wine fridge or a wine cellar with cooling. Some houses have underground space where it’s cool year-round suitable for building wine storage. You may store wines at 60, 65 or 70 degrees, but the wines will age faster. On average you’re doubling the aging time of the wine with each step up. Whatever temperature you use, make sure it is stable without fast changes.
Your bottles should be stored away from daylight because its UV light is damaging the flavors. Fluorescent light also has UV light, so stay with incandescent lights in your wine storage. Clear bottles are especially vulnerable, and since you do not know how they have been stored prior to purchase, drink them young.
Bottles sealed with cork need humidity and to be stored horizontally or upside down, to not dry out and lose the ability to protect the wine. 50-70% humidity is best. If you install cooling it can also include a humidifier, or you can add a humidifier to any wine storage. For bottles with screw caps this is not an issue as the screw cap will not dry out. They can also be left standing up depending on the layout of your wine storage.
Winemaker and owner
Can prosecco wine be stored under the same conditions as other types of wine, or does it have specific requirements to preserve the quality of this wine?
The most important thing to know about prosecco and cellaring this popular Italian sparkling wine, is that it generally doesn’t age well. Unlike Champagne, which is made using the traditional method (Method Champenoise), prosecco is made using the charmat method i.e. is produced in steel tanks.
This method, together with the greater use of sugar, means that prosecco loses its fizz and flavor more quickly than Champagne. You should therefore aim to cellar your prosecco for no longer than a year from production. If you’re buying your prosecco from supermarkets or bulk-wholesalers, aiming for a 6-month cellar life will better ensure the prosecco tastes good when it’s time to pop it open.
In terms of cellar conditions, like most wine, prosecco stores best in a cool, dark space where the humidity and temperature is reasonably consistent. Keep your prosecco lying flat so the wine remains in contact with the cork, to prevent the cork from drying and tainting the wine.
And lastly, don’t refrigerate your prosecco until it’s ready to drink as this also risks drying out the cork and spoiling what is otherwise a beautiful, sparkling drink.
Visit Prosecco Italy
Can sparkling wine be aged in a wine cellar, and what are the differences between aging sparkling and still wine?
Sparkling wine can absolutely be aged in your cellar. However, similar to still wine, most sparkling wines are not meant to be aged (they have already been aged for months or years before you acquire the bottle). As a rule of thumb, high quality and vintage sparkling wine (not a blend of vintages) can be aged upwards of 10 years, while non-vintage sparkling wine should be consumed within 3 years.
The standard rules of storing and aging still wine in a cellar apply to sparkling wine, too. This means, storing your bottles of bubbly in a dark, cool location with a consistent temperature; bottles placed horizontally to ensure the cork stays moist.
However, unlike many still wines you might age, you’ll want to serve your sparkling wine well chilled (roughly 45 degrees Fahrenheit). So, either reserve the coolest spot in your cellar for your sparkling wine, or move the bubbly bottles to a wine cooler a few hours ahead of popping them. Just remember to not store your bubbles in a refrigerator long term, as you’ll risk drying out the cork and potential oxidation.
When aging sparkling wine, you can expect the bubbles to take on new characteristics, the wine’s color to deepen, and fresh fruit aromas of a younger wine to evolve into dried fruit, honey, and/or nutty flavors.
Less prestigious sparkling wines might fizzle out throughout the aging process and lose much of their carbonation. Thus, aging sparkling wine is something you’ll need to experiment with to understand how the aging process impacts your bottles…and ultimately aligns with your preferences. Cheers!
Can champagne be stored in a cellar under the same conditions as other types of wine, or does it have specific requirements to preserve the quality of this wine?
Champagne can be stored in a cellar under the same conditions as other types of wine. You will want to ensure the bottles are away from sunlight and the temperature stays consistent between 50-59 degrees Fahrenheit with 70-85% humidity. However, unlike other wines, before opening a bottle of champagne, you will want to chill it approximately 4hrs in the refrigerator or about 20 minutes in an ice bucket. Remember, the right temperature and conditions are important, but sharing it with good friends is the key to having the perfect glass of champagne. Cheers!
How does humidity affect the quality of wine?
Humidity is an important consideration when it comes to long-term wine storage. An ideal relative humidity level is between 50 – 80%. Keep in mind that if you’re checking the humidity level of your space and it’s warm, your humidity will rise when you cool it down, because cold air holds more moisture (hence the term relative humidity).
If it’s too dry in your wine cellar, the corks in your wine bottles can dry out, contract, and allow air to enter the bottle, oxidizing your wine. If it’s too humid, you run the risk of mold developing and damaging your labels (plus, mold is simply unpleasant). Installing a proper wine cellar refrigeration system will make sure it doesn’t get too humid by extracting excess moisture from the air. This is the main difference between wine cellar-specific refrigeration systems and home air conditioning systems. Home AC systems will strip too much moisture out of the air as they are designed to condition air to comfortable levels for humans. In dryer climates, you may need to add humidity to your cellar and most wine cellar refrigeration systems will not do this. In the case of dry climates, introducing a water source to your wine cellar is recommended. This could be as simple as a tray of water or as elaborate as a decorative fountain.
Blue Grouse Wine Cellars
How do you control humidity in a wine cellar?
Humidity is one of the most overlooked parameters in storing wine. First, it is assumed you already have a storage unit or wine cellar. If it is a “higher-end” wine refrigerator, it pumps in humidity into the storage area. This is not true of the lower end so called “wine-refrigerators” found at box stores and even on line. It is simply a refrigerator and thus takes the humidity out of the unit. The complete opposite of what you should desire!
Now the higher-end wine refrigerators, take, for example, Sub-Zero, do control humidity and makes sure it is at a prescribed and safe level. That level of humidity is typically between 50% and 70%. What this does is keep the cork moist and expanded not allowing any air to be imparted to the wine. Once a cork loses its moisture, it will shrink and allow air to mix with the wine. Many people have experienced this before buying a wine refrigerator. Those same people opted for a “box store wine refrigerator” and then found the same thing happening. Spend a little and save a lot in the long run!
If you have a wine cellar, the condenser unit for the cellar imparts humidity into the cellar. Again typically between 50% and 70%. Monitoring devices are available to make sure the unit consistently remains between these two numbers. Obviously, those living in drier areas, say Southern California or Arizona, need the humidity more than say Minnesota or Wisconsin.
Here is a picture of the humidity level in my cellar using a probe and relaying the information back to the smartphone. Notice the humidity level (blue line) runs around 52% to 67%. If the humidity falls outside the set parameters of 50% and 70% an email and text are sent.
Many other considerations in storing wine should also be accounted for such as temperature, no UVA & UVB light into the cellar, laying the bottle on its side, keeping the temperature steady without fluctuations of greater than +/- 3-4 degrees and letting the wine sleep with unnecessary handling and move
California Wines & Wineries
Why is the lighting of a wine cellar important, and how does it affect wine preservation?
When I dream of wine – and that happens to be often – I dream of brightly lit wine cellars with a light so bright it makes the bottle sparkle like my favorite Instagram filter. In reality, that would be committing a cardinal sin. The lighting of a wine cellar is so important it’s #1 in your wine cellar construction handbook.
The name of the game in wine storage is preventing wine faults.
First, let’s talk temperature. Think about what happens to your wine bottle when it’s been left in the car for a long period. The temperature fluctuates from 80°F down to 60°F then up to 90°F over a period of time.
The temperature fluctuations cause the cork to expand and contract and the end result is that the preservation loses its integrity. The bottle doesn’t leak, but the cork lets in more air than it should.
The increase in oxygen exposure causes the wine’s ethanol to turn into acetaldehyde that the sensory threshold is exceeded. The wine now tastes more like acetaldehyde than anything else. Also known as vinegar. That’s a wine fault.
So, storing wines at consistent and optimal wine storage temperatures is one way to prevent wine faults.
Another is choosing wine cellar lighting that doesn’t throw your wine’s chemical structure out of whack.
What you need to know about how light affects wine and how you can best set up your wine cellar to protect your precious bottles is that – just like oxygen and temperature – light can interrupt a wine’s chemical compounds and cause wine faults.
This is known as light-struck. This means that the wine is prematurely aged and its taste, smell, look, and mouthfeel have been damaged. That’s why the wait staff always offer you a taste when they cork your bottle at a restaurant.
Light-struck wines have funky, wet-dog, rotten-egg, or lit-match aroma and flavor profiles that make you want to gag.
Direct sunlight and electric fluorescent and UV lighting in your wine cellar can all cause wine faults.
Dimmable LED lighting is the best lighting for a wine cellar. Non-LED lights give off heat that can change your cellar’s temperature too much.
Be sure to store your wine in a cellar that is dark and temperature-controlled. While the color and type of wine bottle offer some defense against light, don’t take any chances.
What is the proper ventilation needed for a wine cellar, and why is it critical for long-term wine storage?
A lot has been written about wine storage conditions. If your goal is to store high-value wine well for long periods, so as to maximize its flavor and (if you choose to sell) resale ability and value, then the temperature should be held steady between 53 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Likewise, humidity should be in the 55%-75% range.
What is talked about less is cellar ventilation. You need some degree of ventilation to eliminate odors in your cellar that can contaminate wine. Odors can permeate corks over a period of years, so you need moderate air exchange in your cellar. You’ll want a system that assures that the air in your cellar is refreshed every day or two. This involves a modest amount of active ventilation; something to plan for. Even more important is not to store odor-creating items in or near your wine cellar. It’s no place to age cheese or store garlic, for instance. Avoid fumes from garages and never use odor-creating wood sealers, stains or cleansers in your cellar.
Companies that regularly buy private wine collections, such as Benchmark Wine Group, thoroughly inspect each bottle from the cellars they buy to determine storage conditions. If you’re buying high-quality wines for long-term aging, you’ll optimize your investment by assuring ideal cellar conditions.
Founder & CEO
Benchmark Wine Group
What are the Do´s and Dont’s of wine cellaring?
Cellaring wine is a wonderful celebration of a winemaker’s skill. Although it can be a gamble, there are so many reasons to cellar a wine. From commemorating a special anniversary to commemorating an especially excellent vintage. Of course, you do need to know which wines are the best ones to cellar, however, once you have your wine, what are the best conditions to store your wine?
Temperature, lighting, and humidity are all important to consider for cellaring wine.
Of these, the most important is temperature. Particularly in climates that have cold or hot climates. It is as important as storing your wines that are sealed with corks laying down to keep the corks wet.
The ideal temperature range to keep your wine is between 10 – 16oC (50 – 60oF). You don’t need to be overly concerned if the temperature is occasionally outside this range. Constant temperature is just as important.
Keep your wine away from heaters, including the pipes for central heating systems. Additionally, you also need to keep your wine from reaching freezing temperature too. Warmer temperatures will increase the rate your wine is maturing. Higher temperatures will affect color, clarity and aromas, and flavors.
The right wines kept in the right temperature zone will mature gracefully and produce better results.
Lighting is also important to consider, UV light in particular. UV light will cause wine to degrade. This means keeping your wine out of sunlight and keeping other light to a minimum. It will be no surprise then that the best cellars are dark cellars. This is also a good hint for buying wines from the top shelf of a wine store where a slow moving line of wine has been stored under bright lights.
Humidity is not as important unless you live in an area where there is a very low humidity. Ideally the best zone is between 50% to around 80% humidity. Low humidity may mean that the corks will shrink and that will damage the wine. High humidity should not really affect a properly sealed wine. It will cause damage to the labels.
With patience, you will be rewarded with a wine that has complexity, smoothness while still having freshness and life. It will be well worth the wait.
How dark should a wine cellar be to preserve wine properly?
When preserving wine, the darker the better. If you could keep your wine in a pitch black, cool, and moist environment until you pull it out to drink it, that would be ideal. But, with a cellar, we often want lights for display. When you build your cellar, ensure that you allow for these lights to turn on and off. Always do your best to make sure that the light is not directly on the bottles as well. Too much direct light can negatively affect the wine specifically due to the heat that light brings. If you have a wine fridge with a glass door, and are figuring out where you’d like to place it, do your best to have it avoid direct sunlight. Face the door of the refrigerator towards another wall, rather than a window or door to the outside where there is an abundance of natural light. If you have a custom wine cellar, make sure that the entrance is also facing a wall rather than a window. If the cellar is completely made of glass, work with your contractor to ensure the glass is tinted or has light-blocking technology to avoid spoilage. If that’s not possible, I would recommend having empty bottles on display while putting your collection somewhere in the back to minimize light exposure.
Proprietor & Certified Sommelier
Which are the basic types of wine that you should make sure you have in your wine cellar?
Starting a wine cellar at home is not just for wine collectors who purchase expensive wines. A wine cellar, whether it is a wine fridge, a basement space, or a cool, dark closet, is a way to lay down wines that could use some aging but also to have wines on hand, ready-to-drink.
When starting a wine cellar, it is important to have some staples and well as versatility. Having a mix of wine grapes, wine regions, and wine styles will make sure you are prepared for any occasion, from a casual dinner at home to a formal dinner party to a celebration.
The key is to have a mix of wines, from sparkling and white wines to rosé and red wines. Of course, within each of those categories is a vast range of wines. So, start with a few different wines within each category. For example, have a few crisp wine wines, such as Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and Vermentino. Have a few aromatic white wines, such as Riesling, Albariño, and Viognier. And include some fuller-bodied white wines, such as Chardonnay or White Rhone blends. Do the same with red wines with some easy drinking reds, such as Merlot, and some full-bodied reds, such as Cabernet Sauvignon. Also have a selection of versatile wines, such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Grenache, which are very food friendly.
Start with wines from all these categories and you will always be prepared. You can purchase single bottles or if you like a wine, buy a couple bottles. Over time, you might want to focus on a region or a grape and will fill your cellar with those wines. The idea of a wine cellar is to have wines to enjoy at the ready while also holding on to a few bottles for a few years. And, as you open bottles, you add new ones.
Please the Palate
What kind of wine inventory do you recommend having in a wine cellar?
To get great results from the wine in your cellar, you first need to start with wines made from high-quality fruit. A “cheap” wine with poor-quality fruit and shortcuts in the wine-making process isn’t going to improve no matter how long or how well you age it!
You don’t always have to pay a high price (eg. $1000s for a Grange quality wine) to find wines that are made with premium fruit that will age well. Going on a wine tour where you can get advice from a regional local is a great place to start. Your guide can suggest cellar doors with single vineyard wines (grapes grown only at that vineyard … many wines are made with grapes brought from surrounding regions that may not produce a wine with true regional flavor) and that focus on premium wine-making processes.
If you’re visiting the Hunter region in Australia, you should look for high-acidity wines such as Semillon and Chardonnay. The high acidity will reduce over time and produce beautiful rich, honey colors in the wine and a toasty mellow flavor. The acidity prevents the oxidization of the wine, hence making it perfect for cellaring. The tannins in red wine help to do the same thing, so wine varieties such as Shiraz will also cellar well.
Another way to know whether a wine is recommended for cellaring is to look at the color of the bottle glass. A dark-colored bottle will protect the wine from UV light, whereas a clear-colored bottle doesn’t.
Wines with increased contact with the grape skin (ie. “on lees”) and those that have spent several years in oak barrels (French oak for vanilla flavors and American oak for sharper, pepper-like notes or even Hungarian oak for nutty characters) will develop complexity as they age so speaking to the winemaker or a knowledgeable sommelier will help you to find wines made using such processes that will make excellent candidates for your wine cellar.
Tastes Of The Hunter Wine Tours
What is the best advice you can give us to stock a wine cellar?
So you’ve built (or acquired) a wine cellar. Now what? The temptation is high to rush out and fill every last bin with wine, but doing this will likely leave you with a lot of wine that you didn’t really want, which you’ll never drink, and which will go bad in short order, anyway.
Be methodical about your cellar stocking, and think about how much wine you’re really likely to consume. Unless you’re collecting wine as an investment, you probably aren’t going to drink more than a bottle or two per day at most – parties excluded – so even a heavy wine consumer will only be emptying the cellar at a rate of 300 to 500 bottles per year – and most will drink considerably less. There’s no point in having more than 2 to 3 years’ worth of wine on hand. In my own cellar, I typically max out at 350 bottles, and even then I find that wine has gone south before I could drink it.
With a target maximum size in mind, think next about what to stock it with. Obviously, stock what you like to drink, but remember that different types of wine age differently. It would not make much sense to stock your cellar with 300 bottles of chardonnay that are ready to drink the day they’re bottled, but if you are collecting only for relatively short-term drinking (2-3 years) then you should be fine with any type of wine. Things get more interesting with wines that develop over long time periods like Bordeaux, many Italian wines, and California Cabernet Sauvignon. With these types of wines, try to acquire a case (or 6 bottles) at a time, so you can taste them every year or so and watch their development.
Ideally, use technology to keep track of all of this – both the contents of your cellar and your tasting notes. I use my website for my tasting notes, but in lieu of a high-tech cellar tracking system, I just keep the cellar meticulously organized – by region, varietal, and year. This way I know right where to go when I want to find a certain type of wine, and it’s less likely that wines go bad before I get a chance to drink them.
Can wine be stored in a wine cellar indefinitely, or does it have an expiration date?
Most wines don’t “expire” after a set date, but they do pass their peak drinking window. Wines that are past their peak may taste “corked”, oxidated (sort of a cidery, bruised-apple taste), or vinegary. They may also show evaporation, with a wine level that is below the shoulder of the bottle.
Even ageworthy varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, and Tempranillo should be consumed within 10-20 years. Only wines from stellar vintages and producers are worth aging for longer. Exceptional Bordeaux and Sauternes can be aged for up to a century, but this is an exception rather than the rule.
The exact length of cellaring depends on the producer, vintage, and varietal. Price also matters. There is little benefit to aging cheap wines. These are made with less attention to tannin extraction and barrel aging. They are meant to be consumed within 5 years, and are not likely to reward you with aging.
Another consideration before cellaring is your own wine preferences. Aged wines can exhibit smoother, more integrated tannins and reveal complex aromatics. However, extra-old wines lose their fruit aromatics, and instead exude earth, mushroom, and leather characteristics that are more of an acquired taste.
The Wine Daily
How can I know which wines are good for aging in a wine cellar and which aren’t?
The goal of aging wines in a wine cellar is to allow the wine to improve in order to maximize its enjoyment. However, substantially all wines sold are produced with immediate consumption in mind. In other words, there will be no benefit to aging a wine versus drinking the bottle in the short term.
It’s widely believed only 1% of wines will improve with more than 5-10 years of aging. But which ones?
When I consider whether a wine will benefit from cellaring, I look for wines with:
- High acidity because they tend to age better than wines with low acidity. A wine with high acidity will make your mouth water and be a bit tart.
- I look for wines with high tannins because tannins slow the oxidation of wine. On the palate, tannins have a drying and/or astringent effect. Because white wines have little or no tannins they generally do not age as well as red wines.
- Wines from great vineyards because better fruit makes better, more complex wines.
Finally, I look for producers that have a good reputation for crafting complex, age-worthy wines (check their website or blog for information about the drinking windows and/or vintage charts, or reach out to the winery directly).
Enofylz Wine Blog
What are a few categories of white wines that will age well in a wine cellar, and which others won’t?
When we think of wines that have long-aging capabilities, our mind immediately focuses on dusty bottles of Bordeaux kept for decades in French wine cellars. In fact, the ability of red wines to age comes in part from tannins which they acquire though barrel aging and time on the wine skins. White wines, almost without exception, have less tannins because then they don’t ferment on the skins. Wines with tannins tend to age better, and most wines with tannins are reds.
Fear not, lovers of white wine. There are some delicious exceptions. Riesling is one of my favorite examples. A number of years ago I tasted several Riesling that were more than two decades old in the cellar at Niagara’s Vineland Estate. I’ve also tasted Austrian Riesling from the 1990s that displayed delicate floral notes.
Chardonnay is one of the world’s best-known age-worthy whites. It typically gets oak aging and has good acidity. Like with Riesling, this high acidity is a trait to seek in whites you plan to age.
Sémillon is a traditional blending partner for Sauvignon Blanc in part because it tones down Sauvignon Blanc’s racy characteristics. It is known for having notes of honey and a waxy finish. As it ages, it develops nutty flavors.
Sweet dessert wines are a category with aging opportunities. Port, Sherry, and Sauternes are among the longest aging wines. High residual sugar bestows the ability to have a long life in the cellar. If you can wait that long.
As a final note, you won’t find long-lasting whites in the supermarket aisle. Quality wines, in general will last longer. Like houses, wines need a good foundation to stand the test of time.
How long can different types of wines be aged?
Riesling (2-30 years)
You might be surprised to learn Riesling is one of the most capable white wines for aging. The high acidity and sugar content makes an exceptional foundation to develop over many years. Even a cheap $15 bottle, if it has enough acidity, can make a worthy addition to a long term collection.
Chenin Blanc (4-30 years)
Vouvray in particular is the best choice, especially one with a little sweetness paired with high acidity. Some bottles could probably remain drinkable for your entire lifetime (Savenierres for example), especially the demi-sec and moelleux bottlings.
Cabernet Sauvignon (5-50 years)
Nothing seems to get as much reverence as an old Bordeaux from a great vintage. Same goes for some esteemed Napa Cabs like Ridge, Heitz, Corison, Dunn, and Diamond Creek to name just a few.
Pinot Noir (5-15+ years)
Great Burgundy almost needs a minimum aging requirement to hit full potential. Many can go decades before heading downhill. Some Californian Pinot can also go the distance but that largely depends on their acidity levels.
Nebbiolo (5-20+ years)
Barolo and Barbaresco are almost undrinkable when young thanks to their immense tannin structure. However that’s what contributes to their ability to develop over many years.
Rioja (10-20+ years)
A Gran Reserva Rioja, built with a sturdy backbone of Tempranillo, and aged for five years in bottle and barrel, can easily last for decades. Both Reserva and Gran Reserva wines make for some of the best values when looking for a wine that can age for a long time.
Of course this is just a sampling and there’s no hard and fast rule governing how long any particular wine will last.
Other wines worth a look. Verdicchio, particularly the riservas, make for an interesting white wine that ages well, often showing their best side 5-10 years after bottling. It’s also quite affordable, making it an ideal choice if you want to buy six bottles and experiment with letting them sit for a while. Sauternes and other sweet dessert wines can last a lifetime. Petit Sirah, with it’s hefty tannic backbone, can stand the test of time.
How can I stock a home wine cellar on a budget, and what types of wines do you recommend adding to the cellar inventory?
First start with what you like to drink.
Then pick from producers that tout their aging ability.
All well-made wines benefit from time in the bottle.
Plan to spend a little more per bottle.
Try a white wine as well. They can age beautifully.
Buy at least 3 of the same wine so you can open one in 5 years, another in 10, and then in 15.
If you can buy more than 3 all the better.
At Porch, we’re committed to bringing the best lifestyle tips to our readers. It is our hope that after reading this article, you’ll find the motivation to get started in the vast world of wine and maybe start your own wine collection for aging.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. We believe that every piece of advice provided is fantastic, and we’re so grateful to all the participating experts who shared their knowledge. Without them, this couldn’t have been possible.
Happy wine cellaring, and cheers!