How to Store Wine in a Tiny Apartment

We get it. You don’t live in a French chateau and there’s no ancient wine cellar in your basement. You’re not a tech billionaire and you don’t have a smart technology-equipped wine fridge. (And if you are, good for you. Can we come over?) But living in a tiny apartment doesn’t rule out storing a small-but-mighty wine collection, nor keeping those bottles in tip-top shape.

Patrick Cournot, the owner and sommelier behind Ruffian, a teensy wine bar in New York City, knows this firsthand. Ruffian’s narrow digs have room only for a dozen or so seats along its landing strip of a bar, requiring squished-in custom shelving smartly spaced a bottle’s height apart. Cournot himself lives in Brooklyn—aka land of pint-sized apartments—and is well-versed in creative stockpiling solutions. If anyone can Macgyver wine storage in a small space, it’s him.

Curious how to make wine collecting work in cramped quarters? Here are some of Cournot’s spot-on tips.

Keep wine bottles out of the kitchen.

Got a countertop wine rack? You’re not alone. Plenty well-meaning oenophiles stash bottles in their kitchens, but it’s one of the worst possible places to store wine. “That’s the room that will get the hottest of all the rooms in your apartment,” Cournot told us. Heat essentially cooks the wine and can turn its flavor tangy, astringent, and bitter in a relatively short period of time. Even stranger things start to happen if wine is exposed to heat for longer. Cournot recalled a friend who once made the tragic mistake of keeping six bottles of pricey Bordeaux and Rioja Reserve in the cabinet directly over her stove... for three whole years.

“She had opened one bottle and it was awful,” Cournot recalled. “They were cooked—sweet with this kind of heavy prune flavor. Over time they all start to develop that taste of madeira, essentially. It tasted like prune syrup!” Cournot estimated that at $100 a pop, the mishap cost his friend $600 down the drain.

Lay bottles flat when possible.

When a cork shrinks—something that happens if it gets too cold or too dry—oxygen can get inside the bottle and dull the wine’s flavor, eventually turning it bitter, dank, and skunky. One way to combat shrinkage? Lay your bottles flat. “Liquid is touching cork, so it’s not going to dry out,” Cournot explained. Simple enough!

Rethink the refrigerator.

Storing wine in the fridge for a few days is no biggie, but you’re asking for trouble if you keep bottles in there for longer periods. “It’s quite dry in a normal fridge, and the corks will shrink,” thus risking oxidation, Cournot warned. “It’s not a good place to leave bottles for half a year or longer.” That said, wine-specific refrigerators—which can come in apartment-friendly sizes and budgets—tend to keep temperatures more stable and humidity higher than traditional fridges, which reduces the cork-shrinkage risk.

Don’t let the light in.

“Light is, apart from heat, the worst enemy of wine,” Cournot said. Even if a cork is plugged in tight, ultraviolet rays in sunlight can prematurely age a vintage and bring out moldy flavors. The lighter the wine and the lighter the bottle, the more susceptible it is. The solution? Store wine in a dark place, and if that’s not a possibility, “it’s not that hard to throw a towel over it.”

The hall closet is your friend.

Cournot’s favorite place to keep wine safe from heat and light? “The hallway closet is the perfect spot,” he said, explaining that it’s likely the most temperature-stable place in your apartment, plus the closet door is basically a built-in light reducer. If a closet has an eye-level shelf, even better—keeping wine in an easy-to-reach place means you’re more likely to drink it. After all, you don’t want to hide your wine away too well. “If you have anything that’s being stored for months at a time, you’re not going to remember what you have,” Cournot cautioned, adding that he’s seen plenty of bottles “wind up in Never Never Land.”

Wine isn’t any good unless you actually drink it, amirite?

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