Cellaring your wine at home

There’s nothing quite like being able to go to your wine storage space at home and retrieve a special bottle for a meal. It saves running out to the store and frankly, it’s quite civilized. However, if you are going to store wine at home, knowing where and how to do it is the key.

If money and space are no objects, you could have a professional wine cellar built somewhere in your home. This space is completely climate-controlled with proper storage temperature (approximately 55ºF /12ºC) vibration-free, about 75% humidity, dark, ambient smell-free, with racking. If you live in an apartment or space is a real issue, you could invest in one of those vintage keepers. These refrigerator-like units simulate all the previously mentioned ideal cellar conditions. If you do go this route, buy a larger unit than you think you’ll need. Most people who have purchased them say they got so into stocking that they wished they had bought a unit with more capacity.

Space not an issue, but don’t want to spend mega bucks having a professional company construct a wine cellar for you? If you have some room available in the basement of your house, you could create a cellar of sorts by yourself. Here’s how.

If you have a cold or root cellar in your home, this could easily transform into a wine cellar at a minimal cost. As it is already underground with a separate cooler room/space with a door, you’re halfway there. First, you need to check the temperature over winter/summer to see how much fluctuation there is and how close it is to ideal. A gradual change in temperature from winter to summer from the lowest to the highest is best. Cold one day and hot the next is not good. Variance from winter to summer shouldn’t exceed any more than about 15 degrees. If so, you will require a cooling unit. Next, you need to insulate the ceiling, walls and door that face the inside of the house so heat is kept at bay. Do not insulate the outside walls of the space. You might need to install a light of sorts. Put in some racking and you’re good to go.

No cold or root cellar in your basement? Well, you can still make something work, with a little more effort. Pick an outside wall away from your furnace, high traffic area and ambient smells. Frame up a space to whatever size you want, creating a room of sorts with a door. Then just proceed with the insulation, lighting, cooling unit (if required) and racking as previously mentioned.

Don’t want to do any of this, but still want to store some wine at home? Well that lovely little wine rack you keep in the living room with select bottles is not a good place to store your wine. If you like to boog-a-loo on Saturday nights, your wine won’t like it. There’s simply too much vibration and traffic, and besides, it’s too warm. Same thing applies to the kitchen and any cupboards there. Locate a closet in your home that isn’t used too often (I know it’s hard to do in most homes, especially in apartments), and has no carpet on the floor. Utilize a wine rack of sorts or use the 12-bottle, cardboard boxes wine comes packaged in (obtainable at any LCBO). Turn the boxes on their sides and stick your wines in the slots, especially if the wines are enclosed with a natural cork stopper. Not exactly ideal, it’s still much better than the living room or kitchen. Just keep in mind that if you don’t have proper or close to proper storage conditions for your wine, it will evolve much faster.

Taking care of wine you have at home is important. After all, you work hard, spend good money on it and want it to provide a pleasurable gastronomic experience when you choose to open a bottle.

Edward Finstein, a.k.a. The Wine Doctor, is a wine writer, educator, judge &  consultant.

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