Creating a wine cellar consists of storing wine properly, addressing light, temperature, and humidity issues.
Wine doesn’t like light—it can affect the wine’s taste negatively—which is why wine bottles are generally a very dark green. Keep your precious wines in the dark…but not your wine-loving friends.
A cool, stable temperature keeps wine from aging too rapidly and preserves a wine’s characteristics. Most European wine caves have a naturally occurring temperature of about 55 degrees. Storing wine at room temperature will age the wine faster…and with unpredictable results. The higher the temperature, the faster the aging. On the other hand, storing wines in a colder temperature, like the 40 degrees in most refrigerators, may completely stop aging. At 55ºF, these changes occur in a well-orchestrated manner and historically produces desirable results. However, at 40ºF, some chemical changes are slowed to the point where they effectively don’t happen while other chemical changes will still occur. The changes in the wine are now unbalanced or out-of-sync and could produce undesirable aromas and flavors.
Humidity is a consideration because of the corks used in sealing wine bottles. A relative humdity of 60% – 70% is ideal. Low humidity can lead to failures in the cork seal and then the low humidity condition would cause faster evaporation of the wine.
The Ideal Cellar
The Wine Spectator says that:
“If you haven’t been blessed with a cool, not-too-damp basement that can double as a cellar, you can improvise with some simple racks in a safe place. Rule out your kitchen, laundry room or boiler room, where hot temperatures could affect your wines, and look for a location not directly in line with light pouring in from a window.
Perhaps there is a little-used closet or other vacant storage area that could be repurposed for storing wine? If you have a suitable dark, stable space that’s not too damp or dry, but it is too warm, you might consider investing in a standalone cooling unit specifically designed for wine. There are some inexpensive systems for small spaces, but in most cases, this is getting into professional wine storage.
When is it time to upgrade your storage conditions? Ask yourself this: How much did you spend last year on your wine habit? If a $1,000 cooling unit represents less than 25 percent of your annual wine-buying budget, it’s time to think about it more carefully…Whatever number you’re thinking of when it comes to bottle capacity, double it. Once you’ve started accumulating wines to drink later, it’s hard to stop.”
Using Professional Storage
Jancis Robinson writes:
“Much the easiest option in some ways, particularly if you have a large quantity of young wine, is to have it stored by professionals, either under the auspices of the merchant(s) you bought it from, or directly with one of the specialists in wine warehousing. This…should ensure that the wine is stored in ideal conditions, but it rules out the spontaneity of picking bottles at random from your wine collection.”
The most important part of creating a wine cellar is tasting a wide range of wines and then adding them to your storage area…have fun, taste widely, and drink with good foods and good friends!