Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
You have answered many questions about wine storage and the benefits of wine coolers, cellars, closets, etc. Frequently the answer about storing wine in a closet involves the disclaimer that it’s OK for the “short term,” but there’s no clarification of what “short term” means. So, if I’m storing my wines in a basement closet with an average temperature of 64 to 69 degrees F with only subtle temperature changes based on the season, how long can I store my wines?
—Rob C., Michigan
Good point. I think that when I or other wine folks talk about “short term” wine storage, we’re generally referring to inside of six months, and definitely not counting years. Most wine out there is consumed pretty soon after it’s purchased, and if that’s the case for you, there’s probably no need to invest in a cellar system.
When I first started getting into wine, I was poor and living in apartments, and while I splurged on occasional bottles of wine to age, I didn’t have any fancy storage, just a dark corner of a closet where I kept a case or two of wine lying on its side to keep the corks wet and help keep them from drying out. Some of the wines were fine years later, while others I suspected had aged prematurely because they were kept at essentially room temperature for a long time, and the ideal aging temperature is closer to a constant 55-ish degrees F.
Assessing how your wines will age isn’t as simple as you telling me the average temperature and my giving you a definite answer as to how many days, weeks, or months the wines will last. I can’t account for all the other variables, including your own preference for how you like wines to taste, but in general, wines stored at warmer temperatures are more likely to age faster.
As my collection grew, I realized I had a handful of expensive wines that I was both emotionally and financially invested in, so I bought a small, affordable wine cooler. These days I’ve graduated to something larger and more permanent. I think the question of when to take the leap to investing in wine storage—whether it's racking, insulation, a cooling system or some combination thereof—depends on your budget, your housing situation, how much you’re spending on wine, and how long you intend to cellar your wines. The answer will be different for everyone.
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