Are you interested in wine storage only, or do you want to also display your wine collection on custom wood racks, metal racks or in wine furniture?
If you know what type of wine storage or wine display racks you want, skip ahead:
Aging Wine and Wine Storage
Things to consider when aging wine include how long to age the wine, what kinds of wine racks to use to hold the wine for aging and what the best conditions are for wine storage.
Before beginning a discussion of what wines to age, how long to age them and what types of wine racks to use you may well ask;
Why age wine?
Wine changes over time. Think of wine as being alive, with a fairly predictable curve to its life cycle—progressing from simpler fruit dominate flavor to more complexity.
Wine that has been produced from quality fruit (grapes), harvested at the ideal level of ripeness and sugar content and processed in a manner appropriate for the grape (exposure to skins and stems, aging in oak, etc.) and then stored under the right conditions for an extended period of time, develops flavors that are more complex and engaging. Aromas are intensified, color deepens and flavor nuances allow the wine to be paired with a greater variety of foods.
While the majority of wines being produced today are ment to be drunk within a year of purchase, top wines need anywhere from three or four years to several decades to reach their peak maturity. Unfortunately by the time these wines are ready you won't be able to find, or afford, them. This is why you need a wine cellar.
Choosing Wines to Age
Most white wines are intended for drinking within two to three years from their date of vintage. Many of the red wines being produced today are designed to reach their peak drink ability at a young age. Dan Berger at the Napa Valley Register gives some good specific advice on wines worth storing begining with the statement “Not all old wine is fine wine, and, in fact, most old wine is not really very good.”
Very generally speaking, Old World wines last longer than New World wines and Cabernet Savignon-based wines last longer than Pinot Noirs. Most whites evolve faster and don't last as long as reds. Keep in mind that these are general rules of thumb.
The slower maturing and longer lasting wines may reach their plateau in about 10 years and last for another 10. With proper storage, most California Cabernet Sauvignon will improve for ten to fifteen years after the vintage date. Pinot Noir wines continue to improve for up to five to ten years after the vintage date.
Modestly priced wines seldom improve dramatically over long periods and may in fact begin to decline before a more expensive fine wine has reached its plateau. Modest wines may improve markedly in the short term, but their balance of tannins, acids and so on wasn't designed to develop over 10 to 15 years like the top vintages of the '70s, '60s and earlier. Today many vintners produce wine for almost immediate consumption, as research shows that as much as 95 percent of table wine is consumed within three years of the vintage date.
You should also know that contrary to most red wines, sparkling wines do not improve with age. They are at their best for drinking when they come out of the cellars. From then on, their preservation will depend on the way they are stored. Dan Berger in the above quoted article says that “Champagne from France can be sublime with a few extra years of bottle age, but top-rate Champagnes rarely need more age than they get at the winery.”
Proper Wine Storage Conditions
Whether your needs are for long term or short term wine storage, the conditions that you are trying to avoid are; heat (and especially temperature changes), light, insufficient humidity and excess movement. The longer you plan to store your wine the more important proper storage conditions become.
Wine racks, when well designed and well made solve at least two wine storage challenges. They keep the wine from being agitated and with the wine in a horizontal position the wine keeps the cork moist so that it doesn't dry out and allow air into the bottle.
A good wine rack, appropriately located, may be all you need to store your wine, whether it is a wood wine rack, iron wine rack or any other sturdy material.
Deciding on a Storage System
The questions that need to be answered before choosing a storage method are; how many bottles are you going to store and for how long will you be storing your wine.
The most important criteria in long term wine storage is maintaining a consistent temperature. Variations of less than 3° a day and 5° a year are best. The aging of wine is a series of complex chemical process and temperature has a major effect on the speed at which each takes place. Storing wine for the appropriate amount of time at an ideal temperature will allow it to reach and maintain peak drink ability. Too warm and some aspects of the wine will mature and start to decline before other desirable traits have had time to be optimized. Too cold and the wine will not reach an ideal drink ability in your lifetime.
Vibration, constantly changing temperature and exposure to light make a wine rack on top of your refrigerator the worst possible location for storing wine. A cellar or cave would be ideal for your wine storage racks, of course, and if you have access to a cellar, that is definitely the place for wines you plan to keep for a few years or more. Second best might be to place your wine rack in a closet on the north side of your house.
An increasingly popular option is the temperature-controlled storage unit. These free standing wine cellars are the perfect all-in-one solution for properly storing wine. Capacities range from a few dozen to several hundred bottles and the upper-end units are attractive enough to be considered fine furniture. The Wine Enthusiast has a Wine Cellar Outlet Store for discounted refrigerated wine cabinets.
Commercial Wine Storage Facilities
If you have invested in a quantity of fine wine, and particularly if you are considering it to be a long term investment, you might want to check out one of the regional commercial wine storage facilities such as Portland Wine Storage, Inc. in Oregon, The Wine Storage Cave, in the New York area or Imperial Wine Storage in Florida.
In Europe, very humid cellars are a mark of distinction and Northern California wineries have been using caves for aging wine almost since wine has been made there. I've written an article on wine caves in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys including panoramas shot inside ten wine caves and wine cellars.
Types of Wine Display Racks and Wine Furniture
Wine racks and wine storage units come in incredible variety, some designed to display a single bottle and others to store hundreds of bottles or cases, and everything in between. Materials also vary considerably.
Wood wine racks, range from inexpensive pine wine racks to more expensive oak, walnut, cherry and even more exotic wood wine racks. Redwood wine racks are popular and functional. Metal of numerous kinds is used to make wine racks — iron wine racks in a variety of styles are available. There are even glass wine racks.
Wine racks can be designed as hanging wine racks, table top wine racks (or counter top wine racks), floor wine racks or cellar wine racks. Cellar wine racks are often designed as expandable, stackable wine rack systems to grow with your collection.
Wine rack tables are a convenient way to serve cheese or other snacks with your wine. Wine cabinets are usually made of wood or iron and come in styles to fit most interiors. Locking wine jails are an attractive way to display your wine collection while keeping it secure.
Wine racks, wine furniture and wine cabinets also frequently incorporate some type of wine glass or stemware display and storage. Several companies offer Wine inspired home decor and house wares.
Climate controlled wine cabinets, also known as free standing wine cellars, are another option. They are available in many sizes, styles and price ranges and can be ideal for an office or satalite bar area where an open rack wouldn't provide optimum storage conditions. The question of what to do with a small wine cellar designed to be built in to your cabinets can be answered with an entertainment center like the one above.
Purchase Wine Racks, Wine Furniture & Wine Cellars
A large selection of quality wine racks and wine furniture is available from each of these vendors:
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Wine Country Destinations