This Month in Your Cellar: Think Small to Clear Space for Spring Wine Allocations

wine allocations

Wall-mounted wine racks can be an ideal solution for small wine cellars, but bottles should never be stored on shared walls that are exposed to excessive noise or vibration. Photo Credit: Pixabay

When I was living in a tiny two-bedroom apartment after I graduated from college, I had to come up with creative ways to store my wine. I carved out the perfect little space in my walk-in closet (which was easily one of the biggest “rooms” in the unit). I was proud of my miniature wine cupboard, especially since the space always stayed at a cool 55 degrees, even on the hottest summer days. I thought I’d never need a real wine cellar; I couldn’t have been more wrong. Sometime around Christmas one year, I’d ordered a dozen bottles of wine that I was dying to try. By spring, after the weather started to become more mild, I suddenly had 12 new bottles delivered to my doorstep, and no place to put them in my little closet. When you live in a tight space, or you’re expecting shipments of wine allocations this spring, you need to learn how to streamline your wine cellar to accommodate your growing collection. You need to think like an apartment owner.

Why You Should Condense Your Wine Cellar

You might be thinking, “I have an entire basement cellar that I can fill with wine. Why do I need to condense my wine storage to take up less space?” Well, as we have learned from wine cellar organization experts, just because you have a home cellar doesn’t mean you’ll always have space for more wine. Vinfolio’s Derek Cienfuegos says that the most common problem he sees with wine collectors of all experience levels is the constant wish to buy more wine, even if the collector has already filled a cellar to the brim. Wine collectors in this situation often can’t come anywhere close to drinking all of the wines that they own, and those bottles go to waste. Cienfuegos has helped many wine collectors organize massive, elaborate home wine cellars, but when it comes to his own wine collection, he prefers to keep it simple. He keeps his home wine bottles in a single wine fridge, and stores the rest of his collection outside his home using Vinfolio’s high-quality storage warehouse.

Even home organization experts outside the wine world agree that accumulating too many objects in a home inevitably leads to clutter. Homeowners can try to organize that clutter into neat compartments, but at the end of the day, it’s still there. Two bloggers who call themselves “The Minimalists” joke that organizing is actually well-planned hoarding. They write, “One side — the hoarders — does so overtly, leaving everything out in the open, making them easy targets to sneer at. But the other side — the sneaky organizers — are more covert, more systematic, more devious when it comes to the accumulation of stuff.” That’s why instead of just organizing, you should free up more empty space in your home, and your cellar.

This May, imagine that you have to cut the cellar space you own in half, then rebuild your space according to these new, imaginary parameters. Not only will doing this prevent you from buying more wine than you can use, it might be the driving force that gets you into serious wine storage via a secure warehouse. Home cellars are risky, so the fewer wine bottles you store at home, the better off your collection will be in the end.

Measure Your Space

To start thinking small, measure your current wine storage space in square feet, then see if you can cut this space by 50 percent. If you’re already working with a tight space (less than about 25 square feet), there’s no need to cut it in half unless you really want a challenge. Ask yourself whether you’ll still have room for all of the bottles you own, or will you need to sell off or store excess wines elsewhere? This gives you the opportunity to analyze the wine you own, and decide if some of your collection might be better off in professional storage. Once you’ve marked out the space you plan on using, you’ll need to come up with a safe, compact way to store the bottles that you decide to keep.  

Replace Wine Cases with Compact Wine Shelves

Although wine shelves are an effective storage method, The best wine racks are made out of metal, and use wiring to hold bottles in place on their sides. This prevents the bottles from shifting around, and the wire is thin enough to fit inside of tight, narrow spaces with ease. By contrast, thick wooden shelves don’t offer as much vibration protection as metal racks, and they take up far more space. Make sure that your storage room is dark enough to keep your bottles shielded from direct heat when you go with the open wire rack option.

Ideally, you should repurpose or throw away all of your old wine cases as you move your bottles onto the metal wine rack. It might seem like a neat and tidy option to keep the bottles in their original wooden cases, stacking them all on top of one another, but in fact, these cases take up more space than you might imagine. It’s also hard to see bottles resting inside of the cases without keeping track of every wine you own on a wine app like VinCellar. You should only keep your wine cases if you plan on reselling your wine bottles by the case later; intact wine cases can increase the value of your bottles on the secondary market if you decide to sell off the entire case.

Make Use of Wall Space

Another way to make the most out of a small wine cellar space is to think beyond your floor. Many collectors simply stack their bottles on shelves that rest on the floor, but this can take up space that you might be able to use for something else. If you’re the kind of collector who likes to drink your wines in your cellar, you could save that limited floor space for a tasting table instead. Consider storing your wine on hanging wine racks to free up floor space.

Before you decide to mount your finest bottles of wine on the wall, heed this word of caution: never store your bottles on a shared wall of any kind. If you live in an apartment complex, don’t store your wine bottles against a wall that you share with your neighbor, or against an entryway wall. You’ll be thankful that you followed this advice when you realize your neighbor is hanging a picture frame directly behind the spot where you wanted to put your bottle of Quilceda Creek Cabernet. Alternatively, if wall mounts seem too risky for your precious bottles, consider using your wall space to store essential wine tools instead. You can mount simple wall shelves that hold your corkscrews, decanters, chillers, and crystal glassware. You’ll love having everything in easy reach.

Invest in Multi-Purpose Tools

Storing wine in a small space is easy when you buy wine tools that serve more than one purpose. Rather than owning three separate objects for three separate uses, you can combine them into a single object to save space. One of the easiest ways to do this is to invest in a wine tasting bar that doubles as wine storage. Some wine tasting bars have a space to store wine, a drawer to store wine tools, a rack for wine glasses, and an extendable fold-out counter that expands and collapses based on your needs. As with the wine racks, you will want to choose a table that holds bottles in wire compartments, not wood.

Shortly after my closet wine storage fiasco, I moved into a larger, three-bedroom house. I decided to invest in a multi-purpose wine counter that I could store in the cool, dark pantry. This became my go-to wine tasting space that also kept my bottles cool, safe, and well-organized. However, as wonderful as this table was, I later invested in a real wine fridge that holds up to 14 bottles at a time. I learned that this was a far more worthwhile investment, since I could more easily control the temperature of my bottles. Ultimately, the best option for serious wine collectors is to buy a wine fridge that holds more than a dozen bottles at a time, and ship bottles that require long-term storage to a qualified third party storage service. No matter how elaborate or clever home wine storage has become, professional storage is still the best option for serious collectors. It removes a great deal of the risk from home wine cellars, and is worth every extra penny.

Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s finest wine.

Leah Hammer is Vinfolio’s Director of Cellar Acquisitions, guiding private collectors through the selling process. When not on the hunt for amazing cellars, she competes in marathons and rehydrates with Champagne and Burgundy.