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The Five Biggest Cellar Mistakes

If you’ve made the leap into becoming a wine cellar owner, then you know that it is a long term commitment that, when executed properly, is worthy of your time. We’ve compiled a list of 5 mistakes made when cellaring (and their solutions) so that you can maximize your investment and experience the joy of tasting a well-aged wine.


The Wrong Location

Some cellar owners make the mistake of locating their cellar in the wrong place where their collection is susceptible to movement from a neighboring railroad track, in a room with windows, or right next to a kitchen. To ensure your collection has the proper location, here are some factors to consider:

  • Dangerous Movement. Vibration can disturb a wine’s sediment. It may agitate it and accelerate the aging process. Make sure your bottles are in a safe place with very little movement.
  • Lights Out! In addition to vibration, bright light should be avoided at all costs, particularly harmful UV rays or fluorescent lights. Wine packaged in clear or blue bottles is especially susceptible to light damage. Even wine housed in darker bottles is vulnerable. You can read more about our lighting recommendations here.

  • What’s that smell? Food odors such as garlic and onion as well as smells from the garage (think: gasoline) can enter through the cork and alter the taste of your wine. Therefore, locating a wine cellar adjacent to a kitchen or garage should be avoided.


Using a Conventional Air Conditioner or Humidifier 

In an effort to cut costs, cellar owners often make the mistake of using a conventional air conditioner or humidifier. This is a major blunder that can not only affect the quality of the wine, but can also encourage unwanted guests such as black mold. Therefore, using a proper cooling system to control cellar climate is important.

Don’t forget to insulate! To maximize the cooling unit’s efficiency, proper insulation is mandatory. This will allow the unit to function most efficiently and eliminate surprises on your electric bill. It will also, in conjunction with a proper cooling unit, prevent temperature fluctuations.

You can learn more about proper insulation as well as what cooling system is best for your wine cellar by contacting an Apex agent.

A Vulnerable Cellar

Many wine cellar owners overlook security altogether. Luckily, most criminals are too lazy to carry out bottle after bottle of wine. However, with even modest wine collections being valued at $100,000+, security should not be an afterthought. Factors to consider when guarding your cellar: perimeter, motion, smoke, heat, and humidity detectors installed throughout with all sensors and control panels wired to backup power. Fire, which is often a potential threat for the home wine cellar, means a sprinkler system is a good preventative measure. Most concerning is loss or damage due to equipment failure. Once something is down or breaks, temperatures within the cellar will fluctuate until the equipment is repaired. Having a backup generator in place could save your wine collection and eliminate unwanted surprises.


“He who fails to plan, plans to fail”

Imagine how disappointed you’d be to come home with a case of new wine you’ve just discovered only to find you’ve run out of rack space! Many cellar owners make the mistake of only purchasing enough racks for their current collection and not taking into account future buying habits. Whatever number you’re you envision for bottle capacity, multiply that times two. Once you have started accumulating wines to drink for the future, it’s hard to stop! Another scenario to consider-- what if you are in the midst of entertaining important guests and cannot find that favorite vintage you just raved about? With so many bottles, it can get confusing, so it helps to set up a system to stay organized. A simple cellar journal is fine or you can take it a step further with wine cellar organization software. It also helps to attach labels to the neck of the bottle identifying the wine.

Not Picking the Right Wines for Long Term Storage

Unfortunately, many cellar owners pick the wrong wines to store and end up disappointed to find that all their patience to un-cork a bottle was in vain. The topic of which wines age best over time and belong in a cellar has long been debated.

For your consideration, here are some tips to be mindful of when adding to your collection:


  • Tannin. Generally speaking, wines with high levels of tannin are best for aging, which usually means wine of the red variety.

  •  Region.Wines from the New World (United States, particularly from California) can be stored long term, but it is argued that their flavors don’t necessarily improve with aging. Wines from the Old World (Europe) are preferred for long term cellar storage.
  • Modern Wine. Since most wine consumers do not own a wine cellar, the majority of wines currently on the market, especially from mass manufacturers, are meant to be consumed right away. Experts have speculated only 2-5% of wine is meant to be cellared. Price is also a red flag-- the cheaper the bottle, the less cellar-worthy.
  • Do your homework. Lower your chances for disappointment by doing some research before you buy-- contact your favorite vineyards, talk to the people working the tasting rooms, subscribe to wine newsletters, or search the Internet where hundreds of fellow wine collectors have shared their experiences.

As you can see, there are many factors to consider when maintaining the integrity of your investment. Proper location, environment, security, planning and organization, and proper wine selection are just the basics. For more in depth information about preventative measures you can take to protect your collection or for solutions to wine cellaring faux pas, feel free to contact an Apex agent. We are here to help!