Give Your Home Cellar a Break: These Bottles Belong in Off-Site Wine Storage

Off-Site Wine Storage

Keeping your age-worthy wine at home requires patience and willpower. When you store off-site, you give your wine the time and space it needs to mature. Photo Credit: Flickr CC user Pelican

Having a home cellar can be a form of torture for those of us who love drinking wine. It takes a lot of willpower to leave that bottle of Bouchard Pere & Fils where it is, knowing that it’s sitting on the shelf just waiting for someone to uncork it. That’s one reason I only keep a few bottles in my house and leave the rest to off-site storage. The bottles I have in my modestly-sized cooler are the ones I know I love to drink weekly, or that I’m willing to lose whenever I get a craving for something spectacular to pair with a great dinner. I’ve seen quite a few legendary bottles opened before their prime by impatient collectors who refuse to leave their wine alone. Unless you have the self-discipline of a Buddhist monk, you should always keep three types of wine in off-site wine storage.

Age-Worthy Wines

When I organize my clients’ wine cellars, the first thing I do is take inventory of every bottle they own and split them into three basic categories: bottles to age, bottles to drink, and bottles to toss. From there, I recommend storing any age-worthy bottles in off-site wine storage, regardless of their market worth. The term “age worthy” refers to any wine that you want to wait at least one full year to drink; the age of the wine itself doesn’t matter, as long as it will last as long as you plan on storing it. For instance, you might store a mid-priced bottle of short-lived Burgundy Gamay off-site because you want to wait to drink it for another full year. At the same time, you might choose to keep a 30-year-old bottle of Bordeaux Grand Cru at home because you plan on drinking it within six months.

One common mistake that collectors make when they decide which bottles to store off-site is putting all of their most expensive bottles in professional storage. Just because a wine is rare doesn’t mean it needs to stay off-site in every situation. Instead, I recommend following this chart to decide whether your wine is worth keeping at home:

Type of Wine At-Home Storage Off-Site Storage
Drinkable house wine Always Never
Wines that age 1-3 years max (Gamay, Cava, Moscato) Yes, unless you want to save it for a special occasion Rarely, special occasion wines only
Wines that age 3-5 years max (most Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Garnacha) Sometimes, if it’s worth less than $30 or it’s ready to drink Yes, for any wines worth more than $30, or that will improve with age
Wines that age 5-10 years max (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, white Bordeaux) Rarely, only if it’s ready to drink Yes, if it needs at least one more year of aging
Wines that age 10+ years (fine Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauternes, red Burgundy) Never, unless you’ll drink it within six months Always, unless you’re ready to drink it soon

Bottles You Want to Sell

Store any wines you plan on selling in an off-site warehouse if you want to protect your investment. The chart above only applies to bottles you plan on drinking, not those you look at purely as investments. Let’s say you decide to sell a 10-year-old bottle of Merlot that is already drinkable; you wouldn’t necessarily want to store that bottle at home, even though it’s ready to drink, because you’ll need to ship it off to a seller almost immediately. With full service off-site wine storage, you can have the wine shipped directly from the warehouse to your buyer, and in some cases, can even have your off-site professionals sell your bottle for you. The main reason to keep these bottles under professional storage is to provide your buyers with accurate information on how the wine is being stored, and to make it easier for an expert to visit your storage site and authenticate your bottles. Many storage facilities offer in-house authentication and packaging, making the selling process even simpler for you.

Large Shipments

A Wine Berserkers forum member says it’s much easier to have large wine orders shipped to his off-storage site than it is to receive the cases at home. That’s because in the U.S., most carriers like UPS or FedEx require a signature to drop off your wine. If you happen to be at work or out-of-town, they can’t drop off the shipment, leaving your wine in limbo, potentially stuffed into a hot storage warehouse that isn’t designed to hold wine. I’ve even had to cancel plans to go out to lunch with friends because I was waiting on a big wine shipment. I recommend storing any full-case shipments with an off-storage site first, then ordering the individual bottles you want after they arrive. Not only does this save you a trip to the storage site, it makes it easier to avoid temptation. You only order the bottles that you know you’re going to drink as you need them, leaving the rest to age in peace.

Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storageContact 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.