I’ve known collectors who will spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on elaborate wine storage racks that look like they belong in an art museum rather than a cellar. Maybe you’ve thought about buying one of these racks–if so, you may want to rethink your decision. Although many of these racks are beautiful and functional, they’re not often designed with the wine in mind, and can actually be dangerous for your precious bottles. In my time as a collector, I’ve found that just because a modern piece of furniture calls itself a “wine rack” doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for a collection. When you start your wine collection, you need to know how to spot the best wine storage racks, and how to identify the best storage system for your particular cellar.
Size Up Your Bottles
Don’t look at a single wine rack until you’ve calculated how many bottles you want to store first. I’ve met dozens of budding collectors who spend hours mounting wine racks in their cellars, only to realize later in the year that they’re already completely out of space to store wine. To prevent this, calculate the minimum amount of space you’ll need to mount your racks, and then factor in space to grow your collection. A collection of 500 bottles requires at least 25 square feet of space, with 9 square feet of open wall space. However, a collection twice that size requires 50 square feet of space with at least 19 square feet of open wall. I recommend accounting for 500 more bottles than you currently have, especially if you’re a brand new collector who wants to get serious about this hobby.
Use this square footage number to identify the best room in your house for your wine or to determine what size cellar you’ll need, if you plan to build one. The room itself will determine what kind of wine storage racks you buy. For instance, some rooms have just enough free wall space to hold your bottles, so you’ll need to buy minimalistic, compact racks, while other rooms have plenty of extra wall space, ideal for more artful racks. Whichever room you choose, make sure it’s naturally cool (or temperature-controlled) and has no windows, as light and heat damage wine over time.
Metal Is the Key to Success
When you picture a cellar, you might envision cool, damp stone walls and rich hardwood racks. However, while wooden racks may look luxe, they’re actually not nearly as functional or safe as metal wine racks. Unlike wood, metal racks can mold to the exact dimensions of your bottles, holding them tight. Depending on the type, metal racks are also generally flexible enough to absorb some vibrations, making it less likely that your wine will be damaged in an earthquake. Wine storage professional Matthew Goldfarb adds that a metal wine rack installed with foam or other shock absorbers around the bottles “doesn’t allow them to slide around because of the bent wire racking that holds the neck in place.” Not only is metal safer, it also saves you space. Thin metal wiring can keep your bottles just as safe as a thick slab of mahogany, yet the wires take up one quarter of the space or less.
If you must use wooden racks because you love how they look, consider construction quality over price. Most wooden wine storage racks are at least twice the price of metal racks because they’re made from high-quality materials and require more labor to construct. Avoid cheap materials like plywood, pine, or other soft woods, since these have a tendency to collapse under the weight of too many bottles. Go with sturdy woods like redwood instead. Never buy wine racks made from highly aromatic woods like cedar or oak, since this will impact the flavor and aroma of your bottles. For long-term storage, avoid buying your racks online, especially wooden racks; you’ll want to see the racks in-person and test their sturdiness and craftsmanship yourself.
Always Store Bottles on Their Sides
One mistake my clients often make is storing their bottles with their labels hidden, believing that they’ll simply remember where everything is. This might work if you have fewer than a dozen bottles, but for most of us, remembering over a long period of time where things are stored isn’t reasonable. For instance, I know many collectors who love triangle or diamond-shaped wooden racks because they’re attractive and take up very little space. The problem is that the sharpness of the diamond can dig into the smooth glass, and whichever bottles are unfortunate enough to be on the bottom of the pile usually get destroyed or even crushed. Not only is this storage method dangerous, it also only allows you to see the tops or bottoms of the bottles, which doesn’t tell you anything about the vintage.
Always choose a wine rack that stores bottles on their sides and also showcases the bottle’s label at a glance. This has two benefits: first, the cork stays moist, which keeps it supple and prevents oxidation; second, you can quickly see exactly where a specific bottle is without digging through and disrupting the bottles around it. This method takes up more wall space, but it keeps your bottles safer in the long run. If you run out of space, you can always store your excess bottles in a full-service storage warehouse. To keep your collection even more organized, I recommend combining open-label storage with an app like VinCellar, which keeps track of your bottles for you, ensuring you don’t miss the drink dates of any of your favorite wines.
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.