What precautions should I take to earthquake-proof my wine cellar?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What precautions should I take to earthquake-proof my wine cellar? I will be using standard racks, with one bottle per slot. I know one option is to have the racks at a slight slope to make it harder for the bottles to jump out, and another option is to put a ring around the neck of each bottle attached to a leash attached to the rack. Are there any other options?

—Philip, Osaka, Japan

Dear Philip,

I have a couple of strategies to protect your wines from earthquakes, starting with some advice on getting your wine collection insured. You might want to look into that.

You mention wine racks, but one of the safest places for wines in an earthquake is in a wooden box. If you buy wine that way, consider stacking wooden boxes (but not too high). Same thing with cardboard boxes—keeping the wines low to the ground will help eliminate some damage if that works for you.

If you have already invested in wine racks, there are a couple ways to protect the bottles from shaking loose, starting with securing the racks themselves to the walls so they don’t fall over. You mention slopes, and you’re absolutely right. Even tipping a bottle upward by as little as 5 percent can help the bottles from falling out of their slots in the event of an earthquake. If you can’t get custom-built sloped racks, see if you can slide something underneath to prop up the front end of the rack just a little bit so the wines are sloping back toward the wall.

If that doesn’t work, see if there’s a way to add a door, cage or mesh to the front of the rack. I’ve also seen some racks that are MacGyvered with wire or fishing line to the front of the rack to provide some resistance to bottles falling out while still making the bottles accessible. I also have a friend who installed an upward sloping “lip” of wood to the front facing of his wooden racks, which should catch wines from shaking loose.

I’ve seen those O-ring “leashes” that attach to each slot, the O-ring slipping around the neck of the bottle. Some of these also come with ID tags, which I think is a pretty smart idea, but if you are handy, you can also fashion your own system with O-rings, zip ties and a staple gun. I read about some people using rubber bands, but in my experience, they can break down after a while and need to be replaced.

—Dr. Vinny

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