1. If the conditions aren’t right, the wine will rot. There’s nothing worse than opening a bottle after years of storage, only to discover that instead of aging gracefully, it’s turned to vinegar. Keep the temperature of your wine cellar, wine refrigerator, wine closet, or wine cabinet between 50 and 65 degrees F for red wine and 45 to 60 degrees for white wine.
2. Here’s a nifty trick: since heat rises, and white wines need cooler conditions than reds do, keep white wines close to the floor and red wines closer to the ceiling.
3. Maintain a relative humidity between 50 and 70%. Click here for our discussion on the importance of the right humidity for wine aging.
4. Keep bottles out of the light as much as possible. When you do need to flip the switch to read the labels, make sure you’re using incandescent, not florescent—the extra UV light from florescent bulbs can penetrate the glass and interfere with the wine’s aging process.
5. Store bottles on their sides to keep the cork moist (a too-dry cork can shrink or even crack, letting in too much air and ruining the wine).
6. Use racks specifically designed for wine storage. Certain types of woods and treatments can impart undesirable tastes to the bottles or can not rot in the damp, cool climate of your wine cellar.
7. Since you want to protect your wines from temperature fluctuations, and the areas nearest the door of your wine cellar are most vulnerable to temperature and humidity shifts, keep the younger wines that you plan to drink soon near the door, and the investment bottles that you want to age in the back corners.
8. Protect your wines from vibration. Put your wine cellar in an appropriate place (a professional can help you find one), and avoid picking up the bottles. Hang wine tags on the necks of your stored sideways bottles and write the label information on them. This way, you can browse through your collection without disturbing the bottles.
9. The best way to ensure your collection is organized is to keep a regularly updated database of what’s currently in your cellar. You can use a book or even a computer spreadsheet. There is also some nifty software built for managing wine collections. Your records should note when you bought the wine, its name, region, producer, vineyard name, price paid, estimated value and future value, and leave space for tasting notes—the most important part!—for when you finally drink it.