If you find your wine collection expanding to more than just the odd bottle or two, it may be time to start thinking carefully about how you're storing it. Take a look at the tips below, and hopefully you can maximise the chances of your special bottles still being special when you decide to open them!
Keep them in the dark.
Bright light can adversely affect a wine's flavour, causing it to become what is known as 'light struck'. This, by the way, is why wine is generally bottled in dark glass. Those that are in clear glass (rosé is the most common) are not usually intended to be aged for any great length of time. It is also the reason for the cellophane wrap you often find around bottles of Champagne. This is easy enough to accomplish - just keep your bottles in a dark cupboard, or failing that a sturdy box.
Keep your bottles horizontal.
Wine bottles are stored on their sides to protect their corks from drying out. When dry, a cork will shrink. When this happens, the seal protecting the wine from its biggest enemy - oxygen - is broken, and the wine is vulnerable to spoilage.
This is going to be a little bit trickier than just boxing up your bottles or laying them horizontally. Ideally what you're looking for is a constant temperature of between 10 and 15 celsius. In most people's homes this won't be all that easy, as we generally like to keep ourselves a little warmer than that. Perhaps you have a cooler basement, cellar or garage that could work? If the ideal temperature isn't possible, anything up to twenty shouldn't be too harmful to your wine. The key is constancy. The best way to achieve this, of course, is to get yourself a specialised wine cabinet, the likes of which are sold by Eurocave and others. That way, you can set your ideal temperature and rest assured that your bottles will be safely stored at the ideal level. Failing that, get yourself a thermometer and do your homework! You can even buy inexpensive maximum and minimum temperature thermometers which will give you even more insight into which area of your house might be the most suitable. One thing I can say for certain, is that the kitchen is almost certain to be the least suitable!
This is another tricky element to manage in a domestic setting. Humidity levels are important when storing wine as a higher level prevents the cork from drying out. As mentioned above, dry corks are the main culprit in causing wines to oxidise over time. This is why many wineries store their bottles in damp underground cellars. In fact, I have yet to visit the cellar under a winery without the winemaker proudly announcing the level of humidity they have managed to achieve - sometimes even up to 100%! Over time, such high levels cause a build-up of mould in the cellar, which forms fantastically long stalactites. Should you not share this enthusiasm for cultivating mould in your own home, you can get hold of machines which will humidify the environment. Or, failing that, a bowl of water or wet sponge in the room will also help.
And finally, at the risk of sounding incredibly dull, do consider keeping a record book of your wine collection.Research drinking windows and think about when your wines will be ready to open. You don't want to forget bottles and leave them in the cellar until they are long past their prime. After all, wine is meant for drinking.