We would all love to have a temperature and humidity controlled wine cellar, but space limitations, expense or too little wine can make it difficult to justify. If you are lucky enough to have space for a wine cellar, bravo, you're a step ahead and probably don't need to read the rest of this. But many of you just want to know what you can do to prevent your wine from turning to vinegar without going to a lot of trouble and expense. Read on.
There are three important things to remember before selecting a proper wine storage area: location, location, location. Wines are fragile and need certain conditions to give them a chance of surviving.
This is probably the most important factor to consider. Suggested wine storage temperature is 50F to 60F. Maintaining that temperature in your house would probably freeze you to death and substantially increase your energy bills.
Even if you can't achieve those temperature goals, we recommend you find the coolest closet in your house or apartment, place a thermometer inside and check it once in the morning, again at midday, and finally at night. Compare them and see how consistent they are relative to each other.
More than anything, wine needs a consistent temperature to mature properly. If, for instance, the temperature in the morning is 68F, midday is 78F and at night 80F+ then this may present a problem and you may need to seek another place. If, however, the temperature stays pretty consistently in the 60s, then you've found a good location.
This can be a problem too. Direct sunlight presents two problems, light and heat, so definitely keep your wine away from outside windows. Even lamps can be hazardous to your wine's health so avoid them too. Keeping your wine on top of the refrigerator may look nice, but it certainly isn't doing your wine any good.
Another potential disaster is storage in an area with heavy foot traffic, near household appliances or anything that can create vibrations. Wine is delicate and its components can break down over time if exposed to heavy vibration. This is why an old refrigerator does not make a good wine cellar. First, the highest setting is probably too cold for red wines, and secondly, refrigerators are not dampened against vibration from the cooling unit.
Wines need to be stored either on their side or cork side down to keep the cork from drying out and allowing air to enter through the cork. This can cause excess oxidation. If you can't use proper wine racking or bins, we recommend using old wine case boxes for storage. If you receive wine via mail order (from Winetasting.com for example), use the packaging material for extra insulating protection against temperature fluctuations.
You don't need to spend a lot of money to store your wine. Remember, as cool as possible, but more importantly as consistent in temperature as possible; keep the wine away from light sources, and stay away from anything that can jostle the wine such as the washing machine.
Give your wine a good chance and you will be rewarded handsomely!