Successfully storing wine means managing heat and light. That’s really all there is to it.
Everything else you choose for your wine storage—size, aesthetics, layout, equipment, and fixtures—must either encourage or not obstruct the optimal ranges of wine storage temperature and light that you’ve identified.
Of course, there is some give and take. If you want your wine storage to prominently display your collection, you’ll need to sacrifice some exposure to light for the experience and aesthetic you want. Likewise, if you don’t care about the way your storage space looks, you can easily achieve the ideal amount of light (i.e, almost none).
First, make sure your wine cellar lighting gives you the best chance to avoid light-struck wine faults. Then pick the right wine storage furniture. Wine storage cabinets and racks should progress your chosen aesthetic and help you achieve and maintain ideal wine storage temperature and light level.
So let's find the right ones for you.
Wine Storage Furniture
The two primary types of wine storage furniture are wine storage cabinets and wine storage racks. It goes without saying that wine storage racks aren’t temperature-controlled. If you want to use racks to store and age wine for an extended period of time, you’ll need to place them within some sort of temperature-controlled environment. That’ll most likely be a wine cellar.
How to Choose Wine Storage Cabinets
Below are outlined the important aspects to consider when purchasing a wine storage cabinet and suggestions based on your collection and storage approach.
Should My Wine Cabinet Be Refrigerated?
A non-refrigerated wine cabinet is more or less a piece of traditional wooden furniture ... that's insulated. It has the capacity to hold wine bottles and look pretty, but it doesn’t actively regulate temperature, humidity, or light. If you’re after a non-refrigerated wine cabinet, you’ll either be placing it in a wine cellar or other temperature-controlled environment. Or you’re prepared to store your wines at room temperature (which isn’t recommended).
You can think of a refrigerated wine cabinet as a mini wine cellar. Instead of an entire room that keeps wine at a consistent temperature and humidity, a single piece of furniture that does it. Within it are a series of adjustable racks for storing wine bottles on their side.
You should get a refrigerated wine cabinet if you:
- Don’t have a wine cellar and are counting on your cabinet to control the temperature
- Have a wine cellar but need a smaller collection of wine stored at a different temperature than the wider cellar is set at
Otherwise, you can get a non-refrigerated wine cabinet and place it directly in your wine cellar. Just make sure any non-refrigerated wine cabinet is adequately insulated.
Our favorite non-refrigerated wine cabinet is the Winsome 3-piece Ancona modular set. It’s a beautiful, simple, minimal design that’s easy to assemble, cost-effective, and sturdy. It also comes with two top drawers for wine accessories and a small cubby for hanging stemware.
Should I Get a Wine Cooler or Refrigerated Wine Cabinet?
Both wine coolers and refrigerated wine cabinets control the temperature of wine. But there are some stark differences wine collectors need to be aware of.
A wine cooler is basically an electronic device that’s meant for chilling wines that will be served soon. They are decent short-term solutions for keeping wine at an ideal temperature, but they tend to have a fair amount of temperature volatility. That makes them ill-suited for long-term storage. Temperature changes—even small ones within an ideal storage range—are the enemy of successfully stored and aged wine.
A refrigerated wine cabinet, on the other hand, is specifically designed for long-term storage and aging. Where a wine cooler is an electronic device that serves a short-term purpose, a refrigerated wine cabinet is an elegant piece of intelligent furniture that serves a long-term purpose. To that end, refrigerated wine cabinets:
- Juggle multiple environmental conditions (humidity, temperature, light) for optimal long-term storage and aging
- Are fully repairable and can have their cooling units replaced and maintained as times goes on, unlike wine coolers
- Can have their wine racks adjusted, swapped, or removed to account for wine collections that change size, configuration, or bottle size
You should get a wine cooler if you:
- Have a wine collection of less than 40 bottles
- Are looking for short-term, cost-effective function over form
- Don't have wines that should be aged, or don't intend to age any wines, longer than 6 months
What Size Should My Wine Cabinet Be?
Bottle capacity for wine storage cabinets is what most people shop by. It affects how the unit fits in your home, and is usually in the unit’s name or title. So it’s hard to miss.
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as buying a 75-bottle cabinet and fitting 75 wine bottles in it. There are multiple variables that change total bottle capacity—types of bottles, shelving materials, and the way the bottles are configured within the cabinet.
The wine bottle most people think of when they think of wine bottles is the high-shouldered Cabernet Sauvignon bottle. It’s that bottle that standard wine storage capacities are based on. If your collection is full of wider-based bottles of pinot noir, Burgundy, Champagne, and chardonnay, among others, the stated capacity does not apply to you. You’ll need to purchase a wine storage cabinet with a larger stated capacity than the quantity of bottles you’re looking to store.
In a similar vein, wooden shelves within your wine cabinet take up more space than shelves of scalloped wire. If you’re mostly storing standard, Cabernet-style bottles, wooden shelves will work just fine. But scalloped-wire shelves with a slight dip in them have a bit more vertical room to work with. Especially if you’re dealing with atypical wine bottle shapes like pinot noir.
You’ll also have to be aware of how the manufacturer of the wine cabinet recommends the bottles being stored. If the unit wasn’t built to accommodate wines stored in only one direction, and that’s your preferred storage configuration, the unit won't handle the stated bottle capacity.
You should get a wine cabinet with a higher stated bottle capacity than your collection if you:
- Will be storing a lot of wine-bottomed pinot noir and chardonnay bottles
- Plan to include Champagne and sparkling wine bottles in your collection
How Many Temperature Zones Do I Need?
Red and white wines have different optimal storage temperatures. That makes it ideal to have a dual-zone wine storage cabinet: one for reds and one for whites. But you can’t adjust the storage zones up or down to serving temperature; constantly changing and volatile storage temperatures cause wine faults.
If you’d like the wine cabinet to bring wines up or down to serving temperature (which whites and reds also differ in), you’ll need a multi-functional cabinet. That’s a type of cabinet with more temperature zones separate from the dual-zone storage. And those additional temperature zones can be brought up or down depending on the wine you’ll be placing in it and serving.
You should get a multi-functional refrigerated wine storage cabinet if:
- Have both white and reds in your collection
- Want your storage cabinet to bring your wines up or down to serving temperature
How to Choose a Wine Storage Rack
Wine storage racks run the gamut from casual, entry-level wine storage solutions to elegant wine cellar racking installations. The common thread is that wine racks, of course, aren’t refrigerated. You can put them in a temperature-controlled and humidity-regulated wine cellar or storage space or not. They’re the most basic and versatile piece of a wine storage setup.
How you want your wine displayed, where you’d like to put your wine rack, and your collection size will determine the type of wine storage rack that’s right for you.
Wall-Mounted Wine Storage Racks
Most wall-mounted wine racks hold a maximum of 18 bottles, though a capacity of 6–12 bottles is most common. Anything over 12 runs the risk of being too heavy to safely stay on a wall. So if you have a wine collection that’s 30 or 40 bottles, you’ll need multiple wall-mounted wine racks to handle it all.
Which isn’t a problem if you’ve got some blank walls standing around. Wall-mounted wine racks excel in the aesthetics department. They can easily take the place of a picture or a clock on a wall, and that’s usually why people get them. Because they have a modest wine collection and they’d like to display it in a common area.
You should get wall-mounted wine storage racks if you:
- Have a relatively small wine collection
- Want to conserve floor space
- Value, foremost, the aesthetics of your wine storage
Our pick for the best wall-mounted wine storage rack is the VintageView W Series 9-bottle. It’s got a fetching label-forward design and a general minimalist feel. And at 9 bottles, it’s a lighter option with less risk.
Hanging Wine Storage Racks
Hanging wine racks are similar to wall-mounted wine racks. They have a smaller capacity, are mostly used for aesthetic purposes, and conserve floor and counter space.
An added benefit of hanging wine racks is that they usually accommodate glassware, too. While the wine bottles lie sideways on one of the rack’s flat surfaces, the glassware typically hangs upside down by its base.
You should get a hanging wine rack if you:
- Have a relatively small wine collection
- Want to conserve floor, counter, and wall space
- Value, foremost, the aesthetics of your wine storage
We think the best hanging wine rack is this metal hanging wine glass rack from Wine Enthusiast. The materials are what we like most about it, with steel chains and a solid, heavy-gauge metal rack. It’s also got a wrought-iron-balcony look about it, which is a nice blend of classic and contemporary. It holds up to 8 bottles and 24 stemmed glasses.
Countertop Wine Storage Racks
Countertop wine racks are usually on the smaller side because they’re meant to easily occupy spare counter space. But they’re not limited by weight like wall-mounted or hanging wine racks. You can find countertop tacks that exceed 20 and 30 bottles. The only challenge is finding a place to put it.
But once you do find a good place for it, a countertop wine storage rack is always conveniently where you need it: the kitchen or a bar top. And while it won’t be as visually emphasized as a wall-mounted or hanging rack, it can still add an elegant touch to a kitchen corner.
You should get a countertop wine rack if you:
- Have a small-to-medium size wine collection
- Have spare counter space
- Don’t want to mess with wall or ceiling installations
- Value convenience over aesthetics
The countertop wine rack we think is the best rack for the money is the X-cosrack rustic 3-tier. It’s a 12-bottle, wood-and-iron piece with a “retro country” style that gives it a playful look. We like the size because it’ll not only fit on a countertop, but on a bar top, a bookshelf, a desk, or virtually anywhere else. That versatility is key.
Floor Wine Storage Racks
Floor wine racks are the first type of rack in this post that are used to great effect in serious wine storage setups with large collections. The kind of collection you'd need a wine cellar spreadsheet template for. Of all the stand-alone wine racks, they’ve also got the biggest capacity. Because they’re not supported by another structure and they’re not limited in size by a wall, countertop, or hanging space.
You can get charming and useful floor racks that don’t have large capacities if that makes sense for your layout. But it’ll make most sense to get countertop, wall-mounted, or hanging racks if you are storing collections of under 20 bottles. One you get up to 30, 40, 50, or even 100 bottles, floor wine racks are indispensable.
You should get a floor wine storage rack if you:
- Have a medium-to-large wine collection
- Don’t want to worry about height and weight
- Have spare floor space
One floor wine rack we think is great is the 40-bottle J.K. Adams ash floor wine rack. The ash wood is finished with teak oil for a fresh, bright look, and it’s widely regarded as one of the most versatile, durable, and study mid-size wine racks out there. It’s perfectly suited to be a one-of-a-kind piece in a living room, kitchen, or bar for a medium-sized collection. But it’s equally at home with multiple lined up along a cellar wall cleanly taking care of 1–200 bottles. Made in Vermont with a lifetime guarantee.
Wine Cellar Racking
Wine cellar racking is the be-all, end-all wine racking solution for the avid wine collector. Assuming the avid wine collector has a wine cellar. Wine cellar racking is similar to floor wine racks in that it's not necessarily mounted to anything, but it's much larger and meant to essentially become the wall of a cellar. They aren’t pieces of furniture you place along cellar walls, they basically are the cellar walls. We’re talking stable, stackable, 100-, 200-, and 300-bottle wine storage solutions that surround you as you enter the cellar.
Your only other option are floor wine racks, which are likely too small for your collection. You can piece together 3, 4, 5, or more wine rack kits to create a racking system for your cellar. Or you can look into building out a custom racking solution for your specific space.
You need wine cellar racking if you:
- Have a wine cellar
- Have hundreds of bottles of wine in your collection
If you’re outfitting a cellar and you’ll be storing hundreds of bottles, check out the wobble-free Smartxchoices stackable 96-bottle wine storage rack. It’s made of thick pine, and lining up or stacking multiple units will give a cellar a rustic, sturdy feel. It also comes unfinished, which gives you the option to tweak its look with paint, varnish, or finish.
Give Your Wine the Forever Home it Deserves
Your wine furniture choice is based mostly on three things: the size of your collection, how you plan to control your wine’s storage temperature (if at all), and your preferred aesthetics.
If you have a cellar, you don’t much need to worry about a refrigerated wine cabinet. Unless you want to store 200 bottles of red on cellar racking and 30 bottles of white in a cooler, temperature-regulated cabinet within the cellar.
Just remember these two basic rules:
- The bigger the better. Always err on the side of too much space for your wine. Especially given that wide-bottomed bottles like pinot noir and chardonnay will likely end up in your collection.
- Keep in mind the difference between wine storing and serving temperatures. You may want a unit that brings a wine’s storage temp up or down to its serving temp. Get the serving temperature wrong, and you could end up with a lot of wine tannins. Get the serving temperature right and, hey, maybe you can charge your guests a corkage fee.
Once you’ve got your wine storage setup ready to go (we've got a whole wine storage guide to help), you can move on to learning how to decant wine and how to aerate wine. We’ve even got some great tips on buying the best wine decanters and the best wine aerators, too. Then you’ll be well on your way to becoming a sommelier.
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