Wine collections grow like bamboo; if you’re not careful, your bottles will easily take over every empty space in your house, and then some. I once knew a collector who started off with a modest smattering of Bordeaux tucked away in a cool, dark pantry cabinet. Months later, and two more cases deep, he realized he needed to buy a wine fridge to keep all of his bottles stored safely. One year later, when I visited for dinner, I saw that his collection had grown to three full 38-bottle fridges, and he still had a few miscellaneous wine racks hanging in his pantry. His collection had clearly outgrown his home, and he was in desperate need of either professional storage or a true home cellar. As my friend discovered, wine storage options depend heavily on the size of your collection and your future cellar needs.
Small Collections (100 Bottles or Fewer)
The best wine storage option for collectors who only have a few dozen bottles is a wine fridge. With relatively few bottles in need of long-term storage, having a full home cellar would be overkill and would cost you more in electricity and maintenance than you would earn back on your wine investments. A basic home cellar will likely cost you anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 to build, and you might end up with excess space that your bottles don’t need. A 100 bottle collection only requires 10 square feet of space, minimum, yet the smallest wine cellars that contractors will build generally take up at least 25 square feet. Unless your collection will grow significantly in the next few years, a wine fridge is the smarter option.
If you’re a beginner, I recommend investing in one quality 38-bottle capacity fridge to start. Choose a fridge that has adjustable temperature settings to will keep your bottles at a steady 55 degrees, and that protects your wine from outside light. However, fridges are only great solutions for bottles that you plan on drinking or selling in the next five years. For truly long-term storage, consider sending your age-worthy bottles to a professional storage warehouse instead. You pay a small annual fee, and the warehouse takes care of the rest. The best aspect of using the combination of a fridge and professional storage is that your storage needs still have room to grow; you haven’t done anything permanent that will prevent you from buying more bottles in the future.
Medium Collections (Between 100 and 1,000 Bottles)
As you collect a few hundred bottles, wine fridges become less convenient. You would need at least two or three of them to store just 100 bottles, and that takes up a good deal of space in your home. In addition, the more bottles you have, the more care you’ll need to take with their various drink-by dates. It’s easy to keep track of every bottle when you only have 100 of them, but as this number grows, it’s harder to remember which bottles you need to drink or sell now, and which still need more time. Fridges also aren’t well-designed for long-term storage because many of them keep bottles at a cooler temperature more suited to serving than aging.
When you have more than a handful of age-worthy bottles to store, you might want to consider building your own home cellar. To make the most out of this serious investment, you need to calculate where your collection will be in the next 10 years. Unlike a fridge or professional storage, you can’t easily change your mind once your cellar is built, so it needs to have room to evolve with your collection. Your cellar contractor will help you decide how much space you need based on the number of bottles you want to keep over the next 10 years, as well as details like insulation and humidity control. Home cellars are useful for collectors who want to put an upper limit on their wine buying habit; if you can only store 1,000 bottles in your cellar, you’re less likely to buy more wine than you can drink or sell.
Large Collections (More Than 1,000 Bottles)
As your bottle collection sneaks into the thousands, your wine storage options come full-circle. Home cellars once again become an inconvenience for you; unless you’re willing to give up dozens of square feet of your home’s space to build a 5,000-bottle-capacity cellar, professional storage becomes a simpler option. I use this technique for my own collection: I keep a handful of bottles that I want to drink within the next few months in a small wine fridge at home, and store the rest in a warehouse.
The reason warehouses are a better option for large collections than for medium collections is because many warehouses offer special deals on bigger lots of wine. The more bottles you ship to the warehouse for storage, the lower your annual fee will be, and you can rest easy knowing that those bottles are well-organized. Remembering exactly where you put that bottle of Cheval Blanc in a 3,000-bottle cellar is a near-impossible task, which is why most warehouses use barcode systems that keep track of every bottle. You can check in on your collection via cellar organization apps, and have your bottles shipped to your home whenever you need them. The more bottles you own, the more you will want to have a streamlined, low-maintenance storage method that you can set and forget.
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.