As your interest in red wine grows you may consider starting a wine cellar. This could mean anything from storing 20 or 30 of your favourite bottles to allow them to mature for a few years to creating a large red wine collection with a few thousand bottles. However, whether on a small or large scale, your red wine collection will have to be stored in certain conditions to ensure that the wines are allowed to mature correctly.
For some people, their wine “cellar” is nothing more than a dark cupboard under the stairs. Others may have spent thousands of pounds creating an underground storage space whilst some other people may opt to pay a monthly fee to have their red wine stored in a professionally managed cellar. No option is wrong provided certain storage conditions are met which means your red wine is as likely to mature gracefully in a dark cupboard in the house as in a professional cellar. The only difference is whether temptation to raid the “cellar” becomes too strong when the wine is easily accessible!
Many people choose to start a wine cellar when they acquire a few bottles of expensive or special red wine which they have been advised would benefit from a period of “laying down” or aging. Once you have chosen a storage location and fitted a wine rack the next stage is the temptation to fill the rack. Keep your eyes and ears open for red wine recommendations, for good offers and for excellent vintages of red wine styles which are likely to improve with aging.
So where is the best place to store all these bottles of red wine? Many houses have suitable cupboard space under the stairs but other options include the bottom of a wardrobe, under a bed or in a downstairs cloakroom. As long as the space is dark and the bottles are not likely to be disturbed it is likely to be suitable. Temperature is the other consideration – the space should be relatively cool but not too cold (ideally around 11C) and the temperature should remain stable. Don’t consider storing red wine in the garage, for example, as the temperature will get too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer.
The bottles of red wine should be stored on their side if they are being kept for more than a few weeks to prevent the corks from drying out. The bottles are best stored in a wine rack which will keep them horizontal and properly spaced. Many people prefer wooden wine racks as metal racks can sometimes have sharp edges which damage the labels when the bottles are taken out. Make sure the bottles are not stored in the same space as strong smelling substances such as paint or white spirit.
If you want to start a serious red wine collection then the cupboard under the stairs may not be the best option. If you have a house with a cellar then use it as it is likely to be not only cooler and darker than a cupboard but also more humid – perfect conditions for storing wine. Make sure you take any smelly substances out of the cellar and don’t be tempted to use any cleaning fluids or paint to freshen it up as the wine could be affected by any chemicals lingering in the air. Put some good solid wine racks against the wall to hold the red wine bottles. If you have a large number of bottles it may be worth getting some bottle tags to hang on the bottle necks to identify the red wine – it will save you from disturbing the wine every time you pull out the bottle to look at the label.
If your house does not have a cellar you could invest in a temperature-controlled unit filled with racks and designed to keep your wine in the correct conditions. These cost a minimum of several hundred pounds but may work out cheaper long term than paying for professional storage space and are definitely cheaper than moving house. If you have more money to spend you could consider having a spiral-shaped cellar bored into the ground floor of your house. These cost several thousand pounds to build but provide an excellent storage solution. The cellar door is in the floor and can be covered easily with a rug and the small circular underground cellar is lined with wine racks accessed by a central spiral staircase.
Finally, you could rent some space in a professionally managed wine cellar. Any wine merchant should be able to recommend a cellar if they don’t have one themselves. This has the advantage of knowing your red wine is being properly looked after without you having to worry about it.