When two of your favourite worlds collide! You know how much I love helping people live their best, uncluttered lives. You might also know how much I love everything to do with wine. So I was thrilled to be asked to combine my two loves in an article for Howard’s Storage World. I hope you enjoy it…and maybe even pick up a tip or two.
Aaah, wine. The wondrous lovechild of Nature and chemistry. It adds sparkle to a mid-week evening; elevates fine food and good company to the height of civilized pleasure. But wine is a living, breathing, evolving substance, and how you store it can directly affect how it tastes in the glass.
Ideally, we would all store our wine in a climate-controlled cellar or wine fridge, but realistically, most of us will never have these luxuries. The good news: we don’t need them. All that’s required is a little insider knowledge and some simple storage infrastructure to ensure your wine hits your glass in optimum condition.
Think about those lovely winery tours you’ve done, with the cool, dark and dusty cellars beneath the winery. THAT’s what we’re trying to replicate in our homes to give our wine the best chance to shine: achieving even temperature, humidity, light and oxygen flow.
Above all, wine likes consistency, not extremes. A cool, constant temperature between 10 and 16 degrees with moderate humidity of 50-70%. Extremes outside these ranges will damage your wine as it heats up and cools down.
Wine hates direct light. That’s why it’s mostly housed in green, brown or even black bottles. Store your wine away from direct sunlight and bright artificial light and you’ll keep it safe. A heavy blanket thrown over your stash offers further thermal and light protection.
We all need to breathe … but too much oxygen will literally cause your wine to oxidise. Your beautiful red wine turns brown, loses its distinctive fruit-driven aromas, and tastes vinegary and lacklustre. Screwcaps have made oxidation much less common, but if you still have aged reds or whites under cork, store them lying down at a slight downward angle (HSW Wine Stash racking is perfectly designed for this). The downwards wine flow keeps the cork moist, preventing evaporation and excess oxygen from entering and working its mischief.
So what ARE good home storage options? Internal walls in garages, especially if combined with concrete slab floors, offer good thermal mass and stable temperatures. The Harry Potter cupboard under the stairs, spare wardrobe or linen cupboard spaces can be excellent cool, dark, choices. Spare bedrooms on the southern side of the house work well. Remember, a dozen bottles of red can weigh up to 15kg, so store your collection on the floor rather than on upper shelving if possible. Stackable open racks such as HSW’s stackable black wine racks are ideal. Products such as Damp Rid can limit excessive humidity.
Kitchens and bathrooms rarely make good homes for your wine. Heat and humidity generated by the oven, fridge, dishwasher and shower make it harder to maintain your precious bottles in their optimal state – even if in built-in wine racks around the fridge or oven. Racking placed against the inside of external walls, particularly sun-exposed western walls, may also heat up too much, as will garden shed home cellars unless specially insulated.
Do you store your wine in the kitchen fridge? That’s super-convenient – and HSW’s iDesign Fridge Binz keep your bottles from rolling around — but be aware that a home fridge chills to 4 degrees C. Wine is like Goldilocks’ porridge: serve it too cold, and distinctive varietal flavours and aromas are muted, and reds will taste thin and harsh. Too warm, and flavours lose their freshness. Get the serving temperature just right and you’ll reap the rewards of wine as the winemaker intended it. Take each bottle out 15 minutes (whites) to an hour (big reds) before you intend to drink it to allow it to come up to a good drinking temperature. For whites that’s between 6-13 degrees C, and for reds, 15-18 degrees.
So, once we have our storage conditions right, how do we actually organise our wine so we can easily find the bottle we want? Like all forms of organisation, it’s entirely personal. Depending on the size of your collection and how much effort you’re prepared to put into managing it, many approaches could serve you.
By date: either date of vintage (the year the grapes for the wine were picked) OR by desired date of drinking (excellent for longer term cellaring of reds or aged whites)
By variety: it makes sense to group all your rieslings, your chardonnays, your grenaches, your shirazes and other varietals with each other. Then, depending on the characteristics you seek, the choice is refined to a certain area. Looking for a rich, textured, oak-driven white to go with your pumpkin ravioli? Here are your chardonnays and textural pinot gris. A floral, perfumed, medium weight red for your crispy duck pancakes? Voila your pinot noirs and grenaches.
By region: Different wine regions imbue wine with distinctive characteristics. It’s known as terroir…and it’s why we love pinot noir from Tasmania, a Barossa shiraz or riesling from the Clare Valley. Group your wines this way and search by glorious regional characters.
Whichever approach you favour, technology can be your friend. Here are five of the best home wine cellar storage and management apps, to help you manage everything from a couple of dozen Friday faves to a serious wine collection. Many also offer tasting notes and comparisons to remind you of your favourite drops.
Robert Louis Stevenson once described wine as “bottled poetry”, and I couldn’t agree more. Store it right, organise it right … and reap the rewards of heaven in a glass. Cheers!
Nicki Kenvyn is passionate about helping people live their best lives…and about wine. She owns Uncluttered Living, a boutique decluttering & home organising business in Brisbane that empowers people to declutter, de-mess + de-stress their homes and their lives. She is a Professional Member of the Institute of Professional Organisers. She also loves everything to do with wine, from drinking it to making it. She has qualifications from WSET, the global Wine & Spirit Education Trust, and the Queensland College of Wine & Tourism, and works vintage on the winery floor doing whatever gets her closer to the miracle of wine at Hidden Creek winery in Queensland’s Granite Belt. You can read the original HSW article here.