Years ago, after a long day following an even longer week, Christa Adymy arrived home eager to pop open a bottle of wine and unwind with a glass or two. To her dismay, she discovered the wine had gone bad. And not just the one bottle, but the half a dozen or so that she’d let accumulate on her sun-drenched kitchen counter. The wines had oxidized, making them more reminiscent of vinegar than the juicy red Adymy was expecting.
Adymy had committed two cardinal wine storage sins: keeping the bottles upright in a standing position and allowing them to essentially sunbathe for weeks on end in her warm, humid kitchen.
For anyone getting into wine, or beginning to amass an impressive collection, knowing a few wine storage basics will ensure the wine is always good to the last drop. Unless, of course, it is corked. These tricks of the trade can’t help with that.
Cool and on the side
Wine should be stored in a cool, dry place; it’s important it’s not bone dry, as some humidity is needed to ensure the corks don’t dry out. A spot with little to no sunlight, explains Suhayl Ramirez, who’s enrolled in a wine study program at the Elizabeth Bishop Wine Resource Center at Boston University. Her homework, she says, involves drinking lots of wine. During her studies, Ramirez has also learned a thing or two about proper storage.
The cool spot is paramount, Ramirez explains, adding, “I know some people who keep the wine in their closet or under the bed.”
Indeed, the closet is an oft-trusted environment, one that wine consultant Kirsten Schofield says she’s opted for, in a pinch, when there’s no room for a dedicated wine area. She calls the closet move French winemaker style, a nod to collectors in France who tend to store their wine at home in a cool, dark place, as opposed to a professional-grade storage system. She adds that she’s of the mindset you don’t have to spend a lot to keep a wine collection in good standing — except, of course, it should not actually be standing.
For wine lovers inhabiting small spaces who have closets packed to the gills, enter the compact wine rack. Consider the Kartell Infinity Rack, suggests Schofield. Composed of plastic rings that snap together, it can be built in different ways, and endlessly expanded. It’s a great option for people who tend to move often, Schofield says.
West Elm also makes an aesthetically pleasing space-saving unit. And Etsy has dozens of sturdy-looking options from a minimalist seven bottle, two-tier wave countertop rack to a wooden, eight-bottle tabletop holder that technically could serve as a kitchen table centerpiece provided the kitchen doesn’t get a ton of light.
Both Ramirez and Schofield stress the importance of keeping wine on its side until it’s ready to drink, whether with a homemade contraption using planks and bricks, an empty — and deep enough — bookshelf, or a rack marketed specifically as one to hold and protect wine. Fail to do this and, as Adymy can attest, the result is predictable: a kitchen full of wine and nothing to drink.
“As long as the bottles can lay on their sides for cork contact and you have a stable setup that won’t move, you can really go with a lot of different options to fit your budget and your space,” Ramirez says. She adds, “I have learned very quickly that the best wine rack is simple and modular because the bottles really do add up quickly.”
Simple often means budget-friendly. Emilie Vermilyea, who works at Boston’s The Urban Grape, largely endorses inexpensive wine racks. “For the average person who isn’t spending a bunch of money per bottle, I think that some of the countertop wine racks you see at Target, Wayfair, Crate & Barrel, etc. work perfectly for small amounts of storage.” Vermilyea recommends the 11-bottle wine rack from Crate & Barrel, which she says, “works perfect, makes for a cute display but also keeps it all organized and compact.”
Wine fridge considerations
“If money and space are no object, then the move is to get a wine fridge — if you’re going to keep stuff that truly needs to be cellared,” Schofield says.
Expect to spend upward of $1,000 on a good quality wine fridge. “There are some models that are all one temperature, but I would go for one with dual temperature zones to store red wines and white wines at the appropriate temperature for each,” Ramirez advises. Vermilyea sees the value in wine fridges with lock functions and also likes the trend toward a sleek appearance, such as the Cuisinart Private Reserve 8-Bottle Wine Cellar.
“EuroCave is definitely the gold standard for what I call really serious, capital W wine,” Ramirez adds. Schofield and Vermilyea agree.
While Adymy didn’t go for the uber-expensive EuroCave model, she did opt to have a dual-temperature controlled wine fridge added to her kitchen in Buffalo, New York, where she resides now. Thinking back to that memorable night marked by those spoiled bottles with their bone-dry corks, Adymy says lessons were learned, “I know better now.”