Storing wine: issues and options

Published by Sally on February 19, 2010

A version of this article first appeared in Fine Expressions magazine during 2006.  One from the archives, but the issues and contacts remain valid. The costs are from 2006, and for UK companies; for broadbrush guidance only.

The briefest of internet searches about wine storage yields a plethora of possibilities for almost any shape and size of space you may have available to mature your favourite bottles of wine.

Always start with the end in mind

Always start with the end in mind. How much storage do you want? Is it just storage for ongoing consumption, or for maturation?  What space can you make available? Do you have different sized bottles, for example magnums and halves, or traditional flute bottles? Do you want space to store full wooden cases as well as unpacked bottles? How much do you want to spend?

Racking systems

You have the space and its conditions are OK (see below). Maybe it’s a cellar, maybe it’s an insulated outhouse.  A & W Moore is just one company offering bespoke racking systems to fit the shape of space available, usually made of galvanised steel with wooden blocks from front to back. They can be made to measure for any bottle shapes and sizes, and they can even come with steel shelves for wooden cases.  Costing about £1 a hole, and covering 100 bottles in one square metre, this is a pretty cost and space effective system.

The Cavovin ‘building block’ system also needs a reasonably stable environment, although the company says the material has some insulating capacity to moderate temperature fluctuations.  Their basic system 12/24 is listed at £27 plus VAT and delivery, and they have some different shaped and sized sections, giving size increments that can fit most gaps. 

Both of these options can move with you.

Temperature controlled cabinets

If your home does not provide a constant and suitable environment, one option is a temperature controlled cabinet, which plugs into an electricity socket.  This is a fertile marketplace (see links page: wine storage).

The best of these cabinets come with both temperature and humidity control systems, which alert you either visually or aurally when either parameter falls outside of your specification. New models of market leader Eurocave for example, have a packet of clay balls which sit on the bottom of the cabinet.  If the humidity alarm sounds you simply add a cup of water to the clay balls to boost humidity.

Eurocave say their most popular model is the V283 classic cabinet (175H x 66W x 70D) which holds 200 bottles and costs from £1900 including VAT and delivery, depending on your choice of door, cabinet finish and shelving options.   

Built in cellars

As well as offering temperature controlled cabinets, (starting at £1,250 including VAT, for 156 bottles), Vinosafe’s most popular offering is a walk-in cellar.  One of its biggest advantages is that you can take it with you when you move house. It is a modular unit, an air-tight, enclosed room, with racking on both sides.  It has air-conditioning and a gravel floor to which water may be added to keep the humidity level topped up. They take just 3 hours to assemble and can be located in a spare room for example, or in the garage or basement. 

The smallest, most popular, module, accommodates 1,000 bottles and costs £7,585 including VAT.  The modules can be extended to store up to 4,000 bottles, in a system costing about £20,000.

For a non-movable solution a spiral cellar could be the option for anyone with a garden, a garage or a ground floor that they own.  This is a 2m diameter hole, up to 3m deep, into which are stacked a series of wine-bins. The company says that planning permission is not required and they organise all the necessary building regulations approval. Prices start at £8,000 for the smallest cellar of 650 bottles, up to £15,000 for 1,600 bottles.  There are no running costs as ventilation pipes feed to the outside, and the whole thing is usually up and running in a week.

Outsourcing storage

If you don’t have sufficient space at home, or you have a lot of wine that needs maturing for several years to reach its ‘drinking window’, outsourcing may be a good option. Services can be offered ‘in bond’ where the excise duty only becomes payable when the case moves from bond to duty paid, and ‘duty paid’. Most providers offer both.

While traditional wine merchants offer customers storage facilities for wines bought from them, if it is important to store all your wines in one location, bespoke services exist, such as those offered by Smith & Taylor. Each customer has their own ‘bin’.  Each case is opened when it first arrives, to ensure the contents are as expected, and resealed with a metal seal.  Whilst a case rate is offered, it only includes limited liability insurance which is invariably insufficient for wines worthy of storage. The pricier alternative is a charges based on the value of your total wine portfolio, for example £15 a week for up to £10,000 worth of wine.

The big advantage of ‘in bond’ storage is to trade your wine. The physical case can remain in the bonded warehouse in a consistent environment, for example at London City Bond, probably at their Vinotheque bond in Burton on Trent, for £10.80 per dozen per year, including full replacement value insurance.  You  might sell your case to someone in Singapore, who may choose to leave the case at LCB, later selling it to a resident of the USA for example.

Depending on your needs, almost any storage possibility exists, for all budgets. An increasing number of companies are offering tailored cellar construction on any scale within the fabric of a home’s living space.  As wine becomes a lifestyle fixture, detailed choice of construction material and finish, use of glass to show off a wine portfolio, lighting design as well as accessorising with all types of wine paraphernalia are possible

Good conditions for wine maturation

Other considerations

See links page for more wine storage companies.

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