Home Wine Bar: Caring for Your Wine Bottles


People who think of starting a wine bar are often discouraged by their lack of a proper, climate-controlled wine cellar. Fortunately, there are other ways of maintaining the proper conditions.

Characteristics of a Good Wine Cellar

A humid space is best for wine bottles--humidity helps the cork on bottles stay moist, which keeps the wine sealed. If the air is too dry, the cork could dry out, causing it to crack and crumble away inside the bottle, exposing the wine to the air and causing it to spoil. Too much humidity, however, could cause the cork to develop mold or mildew, which could then contaminate your wine. A space with about 60-70% humidity is best.

Moderate and steady temperature is also best. If your wine bar is too cold, it could cause the cork to shrink, which would break the seal and expose your wine to the air, causing it to spoil. If it's too hot, your wine could age faster than normal. The temperature should remain relatively steady, as well, as a change of more than ten degrees could could cause the wine to age too quickly. Ideally, the temperature in your wine bar should stay in the 45-65-degree range.

Check whether your bottle has a cork or a screw top. Corked bottles should be stored lying down on their sides, so the cork stays moist. Some wineries are now starting to use screw tops for their bottles; if your wine has a screw top, it can be stored upright or on its side.

Too much exposure to UV light from sunlight or fluorescent bulbs can cause your wine to develop an unpleasant smell. A space lit with incandescent bulbs is better, and you should avoid turning on the lights unless necessary.

Too much vibration can stir up the natural sediments in the bottom of your wine bottle, making your wine look cloudy and affecting the taste. Avoid storing your wine in a place where it will be moved frequently, or where there is a lot of foot traffic or vibrations from other sources--on top of the refrigerator, for example.

DIY Wine Storage

As long as the space you have chosen for your wine has the right humidity, temperature, and light conditions, and you can store the bottles on their sides, you can use any kind of rack or shelf system that will hold your bottles. If you only have a few bottles, a countertop rack, set on a shelf in a cool, dark place, is ideal.

You can also use a bookcase if the shelves are deep enough to hold the bottles lying down on their sides. Stack old cardboard mailing tubes on each of the shelves, reinforcing them with glue if you like. Then, simply slip each bottle into one of the tubes.

A wooden shoe rack is another option--look for the kind that has a cubby-hole for each pair of shoes. You can simply insert a bottle into each cubby-hole. Some of these shoe racks are also stackable, in case you happen to have an especially big wine collection.

If you are having trouble finding a space that is dark or cool enough, and you only have a few bottles, you can purchase a compact cube refrigerator for your wine bar. Most are deep enough to allow you to stack the bottles on their sides.

View Comments