A beginner's guide to storing bottles of wine at home

Store wine bottles on their side somewhere cool and dim.
Store wine bottles on their side somewhere cool and dim. Photo: Silberkorn

A decent wine collection is a good problem to have. But where should you store it and how?

We can't all afford high-tech wine fridges or full-blown cellars, but storage is important, even if you simply want to tuck a few bottles away for a special occasion. 

As tempting as it might be to have an impressive (full) bottle on display, it is inadvisable because exposure to the elements can affect what's inside. 

Wine caves in Italy and France are about 12 degrees.
Wine caves in Italy and France are about 12 degrees. Photo: iStock

I've heard all sorts of wine storage hacks during chats with wine industry folk. Bottles encased in football socks, wine hidden in a bathroom cabinet's bottom drawer (because no one ever used it), and many a story of wine stowed under the bed.

Esteemed wine critic James Halliday once told me that before his professional wine-writing days, he wrapped bottles in newspaper, lay them like sardines in boxes and hid them in a dark quiet room. 

Golden rules of storage

"You have to look after your wine," says Micha Ilic, co-owner of new Adelaide wine bar Vault 91. "The most important thing is to put it in a place where the temperature doesn't fluctuate. That's what changes the wine and ages it faster than you want." 

The most important thing is to put [wine] in a place where the temperature doesn't fluctuate.

Micha Ilic, Vault 91

Before investing in a purpose-built wine fridge, Ilic cut the floor out of his linen press and put his wine beneath the house. "Find the darkest place you can," he says. "Walk-in robes are a great place, too."

In a wine-writing career that spanned more than 40 years, Philip White tasted and stored countless bottles of the good stuff. "Keep the light down, the vibration down and the temperature constant," White says.

Choose an odourless location with good ventilation. Ideally, the temperature should be between 12 and 14 degrees Celsius. 

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"I keep reds at 14C (12 for bigger reds)," Ilic says. "If you think about it, caves in Italy and France are around 12 degrees, so you want to emulate that. For whites it depends on the style. I have a three-zone wine fridge so I keep my chardonnays at around 11 degrees, and my aromatics at around eight or nine degrees." 

Light is also a factor. Keep it away from windows and direct sunlight. Under beds or in an empty fireplace are good options. "One thing you can do is collect those horrible polystyrene boxes you sometimes receive in the post and store your wine in those," White says. "It should be stored in a place with zero vibration. On top of the fridge is the worst place for it."

Ilic positions table wine bottles horizontally, no matter whether the wine is under cork or Stelvin (screw cap). "Wine sealed with cork absolutely needs to be stored lying down," he says. "The cork needs to be kept moist because once it dries up, it allows more oxygen than is needed. The cork can also shrink, which can lead to leakage."

Pro tip: If you have the funds, invest in a single-zone wine fridge for wines you want to drink soon, and a multi-zone fridge for those you plan to age. Wine storage facilities at the likes of Kennards Wine Storage are a great option if your collection is larger than your allows space for.