When wine educator Mary Gorman-McAdams decided to clean out her wine supplies a few years ago, she was horrified by what she found lurking in her apartment: entire stacks of rose, Prosecco and cheap Merlot gathering dust behind her newer bottles. She says, “I had some initial hope for the Cotes du Rhone, but alas, it too had kicked the bucket. All I got for my ‘cellaring’ (aka forgetfulness) was a mouthful of faded, dried out fruit.” Part of the problem was the wine rack system; it was far too easy for Gorman-McAdams to fill her shelves with more and more wine, obscuring the bottles she should have drunk ages ago. To avoid a similar problem in your own cellar, you need to either invest in third party storage, or find the best wine rack system for your cellar–one that makes it easy to keep tabs on every bottle you own.
Choose Metal over Wood
Vibration is the enemy of fine wine, and wood makes it worse. Wooden wine racks might bring a rustic touch to your wine cellar decor, but they can be dangerous for your valuable bottles. That’s because wood can’t conform to the body of the bottles as easily as a flexible piece of metal wire. If the room or the cellar wall shakes at all, the bottle will have little protection inside of a wooden cubby, and the wood will transfer any vibrations to the bottle. It will roll around, or could even slip out of the cubby entirely to shatter on the floor.
Wine storage expert Matthew Goldfarb says, “I like the heavy duty metal wire racking that has nestled bottle holders. This keeps the bottles on their side at all times and doesn’t allow them to slide around because of the bent wire racking that holds the neck in place.” Goldfarb adds that you should always install your wire racks on level ground, and bolt them to the wall if they’re taller than a couple of feet. These wire racks also make it easy to see which bottles you own, since the sides of the bottles are left out in the open. Wooden racks make it impossible to see the bottles’ labels, making organization a challenge.
One Easy Trick to Save Space
You don’t have to hire a cellar contractor to build a massive storage unit for your wines if you want extra space to walk around your cellar. When you mount your bottles safely on walls using the two-bottle-deep method, you’ll save space without hiding your bottles from view. Wine collector Jeff Leve claims that the two-bottle-deep trick is the safest system, saying, “In my cellar, the wines are stacked one or two bottles deep, and each of those has a secure place for a bottle, so the bottle itself would have to lift one or two inches to move.” He adds that this would only happen in a major earthquake. “That’s really severe shaking, and at that point the wine isn’t your fear, but the building coming down.” Although the two-bottle-deep wire storage system is safe, it’s a good idea to install metal mesh or glass in front of your mounted wire racks for additional protection.
Storing your bottles two-deep doubles your storage capacity without sacrificing floor space, wall space, or visibility. The best way to store your bottles two-deep is to pair up like-vintages, such as those that came from the same case or those that have the same vintage or regional theme. For instance, you’ll want to pair up two bottles of 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, even if they’re from different producers, because they’ll likely age at the same rate, depending on the quality. Even if you can’t directly see the bottle resting closest to the wall, you can see the bottle in front of it, which will either be the same bottle, or will have the same drink-by date. This will tell you at a glance when you should drink both bottles in that row. Labels also help with two-bottle-deep organization. Either write down which two bottles are in that row, or jot down an estimated “drink-by” date for both.
Pre-built wine racks are easy to install, but they can’t evolve with your growing collection. You might be committed to storing only a handful of drinkable bottles at home, only to splurge on an entire case of fine Bordeaux that you found in a local wine shop for a steal. Rather than setting that new case on the floor of the cellar and hoping that a few spaces open up on your pre-built wire wine rack, you can plan ahead with a modular wine rack system. This type of rack evolves alongside your collection, shrinking and growing according to your needs. Modular systems can either be made out of wood or metal wiring, and are defined by their separate sections that stack or mount on top of one another. You treat each rack section as a piece of the larger puzzle; for instance, you can buy 12 separate wire racks that hold just four bottles each. If you only have a dozen bottles right now, you can just mount three of the racks, and keep the other nine racks in storage until you need them.
You only have to mount the rack sections that you need right now, which saves you space and time, and means you won’t have a dozen empty wire racks taking up precious room in your cellar. This is also the most cost-efficient method, since you only have to buy as many individual wine rack pieces as you need. Follow the same rules for modular wine racks as you would for pre-built wine racks: make sure the racks are made out of wire that conforms to the bottle’s neck, and that the racks are two-bottles-deep. Modular systems combine safety with aesthetics, allowing you to customize the way your cellar looks without sacrificing bottle safety.
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 best wine.
With over a decade of experience in the wine industry, Derek Cienfuegos serves as Director of Collector Services at Vinfolio. During his tenure at Vinfolio, he has had the good fortune to work with some of the most distinguished wine collections in the country. Trained in wine production, Derek spent many years making wines commercially for some of Sonoma’s top producers. In addition, he has designed, opened, and managed two wine bars in San Francisco.