Wine Director Steve Morgan has a big job. He has to continually curate the 600-plus-bottle wine list at Chicago’s Italian hot spot Formento’s and keep the cellar stocked with inventory.
However, when it comes to managing his home cellar, he’s faced with an even tougher task: The lack of restaurant-size space and a limited budget means Morgan had to get creative when managing his private collection. The good news is, he has plenty of tried-and-true tips you can apply when building your home cellar that won’t break the bank.
Follow basic rules no matter where you set up your cellar.
“Simply put, you want a place that has a consistent, cool temperature—in a perfect world that’s 58°F. You don’t want any sunlight to hit the wine. You want wine in a cool, dark place. You ideally want it to be kept on its side as well as having the wine in a remote enough place it doesn’t get jostled or moved around a lot.”
Utilize the basement.
“If there is a cool basement space you can trust without light, you can definitely keep wine at a fairly good temperature throughout the entire year. Sure, there are times in summer you may want to move it into an air-conditioned room, but keep it your wine in a dark room, like the basement, or in the bottom of a closet. The cooler, the better.”
Repurpose old furniture for storage.
“If you can work within those guidelines set before (cool space, on the side, little movement), you can put wine in anything. You can use cheap, stacked cinder blocks. You can use old furniture. I’ve done it before. I’ve used a chest of drawers. That looks great. The best and cheapest is to get Metro Shelving. It’s all-purpose, cheap metal shelving. You can buy as many shelves as you want. The bottles can slide in easily.”
Keep track of your collection online.
“CellarTracker.com is by far the best and it’s free. It’s a really easy system and it’s really popular. You can see what other people say and offer their opinions about wine. It’s twofold: You can put all your info and your tasting notes up there and you can look at other people’s points of view.”
Remember not everything needs to be cellared.
“There are many wines you want to drink fresh. There are people who like wines in their youth and don’t want wine with five to 10 years of age. Many producers make wines in that style and you’ll find that in every category. Even in Napa Cabs. If you keep your home at a good temperature and keep wine away from sunlight, you can keep it on a small rack, but it depends on your long-term goals.”