The essential guide to packing, moving, and storing your wine
Whether you’re new to the game, or a sommelier, we’ve got you covered
If you’ve upgraded your wine inventory and now consider yourself an amateur sommelier, then you may also need to upgrade your packing and storage methods. Packing and moving wine, especially good wine, requires a little more intentionality than you think. Failure to properly prepare your wine for the big move can have depressing repercussions… and you won’t even have your wine to comfort you!
As you prepare for moving day, follow some of these helpful wine guidelines, and your precious bottles will arrive at your destination safely preserved (and delicious).
Packing your wine
This is one area of moving your wine where you really can’t skimp. If you fail to pack your wine according to recommended methods, the rest of the move doesn’t really matter. You might get lucky, but is that really a chance you want to take?
Have your wine appraised
This step is important, especially if you have an impressive collection. Just in case something happens to your wine in transit, you’ll need to have written documentation proving the full value of your collection. Should you decide to file a claim, you’ve already got the trusted word of an appraiser.
Double check the rules
Depending on where you’re moving and what state or county lines you’ll have to cross to get there, the rules for transporting wine can vary. Check with the local authorities throughout all stops on your journey to make sure you aren’t breaking any laws. You may need to declare your collection. Your appraisal will come in handy if you do end up needing to document your wine collection.
This is where you’ll need a little elbow grease. Wine needs some TLC before you can just toss it in a moving van. You want to make sure you’re doing this correctly so that you protect your wine collection.
The best option is to purchase wine-specific packing boxes. You can usually find these online or at your local wine shop. If those aren’t accessible, then be sure to pack your wine with plenty of cushion. Bubble wrap, newspaper, or parchment paper should do the trick. Remember: layers are your friend!
If possible, pack wine on its side or even upside down, just as you store them. This ensures that the corks stay moist, keeping oxygen from seeping into the bottles and damaging the wine’s flavor. (But more on that, later!)
This might go without saying, but just in case: do not pack already opened bottles. If you have many of those lying around, that might be a good excuse to throw a little “moving-out” soiree.
Finally, once your wine has been packed up and the box securely closed, take one extra precaution by slipping that box into another, slightly larger box. This just adds another layer of cushion and protection.
Don’t forget to label your wine boxes appropriately! Moving day can be chaotic and you could very easily get it mixed up with a box of books.
If this all seems overwhelming (or you’ve got a highly extensive collection), you might be better off hiring a professional packing company. These packing experts are trained in packing everything and will know how best to handle your wine collection. They can also provide the proper packaging and supplies.
Moving your wine
By now, your wine is packed up and ready for its new home. But the journey has only begun. Keeping your wine safe during transit is a whole other ballgame.
A climate-controlled move
You probably know that changes in the environment can have significant effects on your wine. Even if your move isn’t long distance, your wine could still be negatively affected. Older wines especially need a very consistent climate in order to remain unchanged.
If your collection isn’t too extensive, transporting your wine by car will be your best option. In a car, you can control the temperature better, ensuring that you keep it at an optimal 55 degrees Fahrenheit. It is advised to travel with wine in the body of the car, so it receives the cooler temperature from the AC. The trunk of the car is significantly warmer. It is reassuring to know your most prized wines receive the safety benefits of the backseat.
For a larger collection, you could rent a climate-controlled van. Although, the prices for this can get a little steep, and at that rate and effort, you might be better off hiring a moving company that specializes in moving wine and/or liquids.
If you decide to hire professionals, again, make sure you label your wine boxes accordingly. Expert movers know how to deal with wine, especially when it comes to loading it onto a moving truck and transporting it safely.
Another way to make sure that your wine is handled with care is to have it listed as a High-Value Inventory with the moving company. This will ensure that the movers keep a special eye on it during transit and it works hand-in-hand with your appraisal, should something happen to your wine. Once your wine has arrived at its destination, you can check all the boxes against the inventory form and make sure that everything is accounted for.
Avoid bottle shock
As if wine wasn’t already precious enough, any trauma that occurs during the move can result in bottle shock. Bottle shock is what happens when a bottle of wine is opened too soon after being moved or jostled around. The wine needs time to settle and could lose its flavor if opened too early. A good rule of thumb is to wait seven days for each day that the bottle has spent in transit.
If you’re desperate for wine once you arrive at your destination, then it may be a good time to visit your new local wine shop for a fresh bottle. Let your current collection calm down a bit.
Storing your wine
You’ve done it. You arrived. The heavy lifting is over. But now, your wine must be stored properly, or it was all for nothing. Quality wines must be treated with care throughout the entirety of their lives, not just during the move.
There are four major wine storage commandments:
Wine storage temperature
While there is a ton of documentation out there as to the “golden temperature” for wine storage, experts seem to agree the most important factor is limiting temperature fluctuation, ideally to less than a 5-degree swing within a 24-hour period.
50 degrees Fahrenheit – 60 degrees Fahrenheit is the sweet spot, with very little to no fluctuation.
Wine can safely be stored from 40 to 65 degrees, but the “perfect” temperature really comes down to how long you plan to store the wine. The aging of wine is a chemical process and colder storage temperatures delay the process. This means that colder temperatures will keep your wine from aging too quickly. Conversely, warmer temperatures hasten the process, aging the wines far more rapidly. Although the refrigerator may not be ideal, it is far preferable to any place with direct sunlight. If you must pick one or the other, go for the colder temperatures.
Wine serving temperature
The ideal serving temperature of wine varies greatly depending on the vintage and grape. Rich and bold reds are generally served in the upper 50s to mid-60s, while whites taste best served in the upper 40s to low 50s. Champagne and sparkling wines are best in the low to mid-40s.
If in doubt, chilled is always best. No one wants an overly warm glass of cabernet. You don’t have to be a sommelier to recognize that heat throws off the flavor of the wine.
In Italy, if you ask for a liter of house wine (which is always fantastic), it often comes out slightly chilled—even the red wines. When it comes to wine, not many people would question the way Italians do things.
Wine pro-tip: If you purchase a few boxes of wine after visiting a winery, be mindful when putting the wine back into your car as leaving any wine in the car while it is off and AC is not running is a bad idea. Areas like Paso Robles and Napa are awfully hot on summer days, and the temperature of vehicle interiors can reach staggering levels very quickly. Wine subjected to temperatures of over 80 degrees for as little an hour can begin to cook, permanently affecting the quality of the wine. Even on spring and fall days, when the air temperature might be a gorgeous 80 degrees outside, temperatures inside the vehicle can reach over 120 degrees within the hour!
Climate controlled storage
Many casual wine collectors will store excess wine in closets and garages, which are very rarely climate controlled. The daily fluctuation of temperature in spaces like a garage can be extreme and have a very detrimental effect on the wine.
Many people who live in small condos or apartments tend to put a wine rack on top of the fridge. This seems like an ideal location since it keeps the wine conveniently in the kitchen without eating up valuable counter or floor space. No harm there, right? Wrong. It’s actually a terrible place for wine to be stored because of the heat being generated from the refrigerator and released out the back. This puts your wine directly in a hot air ventilation path, essentially slow “cooking” your wine, which is not ideal if you’re at all concerned about how the wine is going to taste.
Humidity is the percentage of water vapor present in the air.
The key focus with wine storage humidity levels is to make sure the cork does not shrink or dry out, which can occur if the humidity levels remain too low for an extended period. When the cork shrinks or dries out, more air is allowed into the bottle than what is intended. This can oxidize the wine and cause it to age much too quickly, becoming more like vinegar. This “corked” wine issue won’t occur with screw cap bottles of wine. A common wine misconception is that a screw-capped bottle means that the wine is of lesser quality. The reality is that there’s not much (wine) stock in that theory. It really comes down to the packaging and branding of that particular winemaker. Screw-capped wines can still be excellent.
Just as we mentioned with packing and moving, always store wine at an angle so that the cork remains moist.
Another humidity concern is the deterioration of the wine labels, which are prized by some collectors. This can happen, along with mold growth, if humidity levels remain too high for a long time.
The ideal relative humidity (RH) for wine storage is 50 to 70. Typical household HVAC systems are not equipped to maintain a specific humidity level, and as seasons change and humidity fluctuates in these rooms, can wreak havoc on wine collections. This is a good reason to invest in a wine cooler; you’ll be able to control the temperatures and the humidity.
Proper wine lighting
Certain types of lighting can damage wine over time. Sunlight and incandescent light are particularly bad for wine. It’s important to store wine in an area where it will not come in contact with direct forms of these types of light. If you purchase wine by the box or crate full, keep the crates! These are a perfect barrier, blocking 100% of light.
The glass used to make wine bottles offers some protection from light; both color and thickness contribute to varying degrees. It was once believed that lighter-colored glass (clear and green) and thinner wine bottles denote a wine that is of lower value or is intended for immediate consumption. Although the idea that the wine is of lower value has been debunked, it remains true that the wine in lighter-colored bottles should be consumed earlier. Darker glass (dark green and brown) and thicker wine bottles offer substantially greater UV protection leaving those precious drops of juice better suited to stand up to the rigors of aging.
Many people will leave wine on bar carts, which often end up placed beneath or beside windows. This allows a direct line of sunlight into your wine bottles. The good news? Bar carts are usually on wheels! Move that baby around until you’ve found the optimal lighting location.
Wine storage vibration
Beyond sentimental value growing over time, aging wine comes down to creating optimal conditions for a chemical process to take place. Vibration agitates wine which accelerates the chemical process of aging. Therefore, it’s advised to always store wine in an area where prolonged exposure to vibration is minimized. Some people use wood racking which has a natural dampening effect.
Other wine tips to consider
Cork is a porous material and not only lets air into the bottle but can also let in odors. Therefore, don’t store your prized bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon next to a sack of garlic cloves. Especially avoid cabinets where you store your bleach and other cleaning chemicals. Years down the road, when you finally sit down to an amazing dinner with friends, you’ll be disappointed to find that your prized bottle of Malbec has subtle onion notes with a hint of Windex.
More wine misconceptions
When it comes to wine, everybody loves to sound like an expert. We’ve all heard plenty of wine theories (like the screw cap theory above), but many of them don’t actually hold any weight.
For instance, we’ve always heard that white wine goes with chicken and fish, while red wine goes with meat and red sauces. Although some people live and breathe by this theory, the truth is that it’s really not so simple. Different types of fish will actually be better if served with red wine, just as a crisp white could be a delicious complement to a juicy steak.
Additionally, we’ve been told that old wine automatically means that it’s a good wine. But this isn’t just a blanket truth. So many things can affect the way a wine ages, even down to the way it is opened and decanted.
Old vintage best practices
When it comes to wines that have been stored for years, the care required is a little different. After a lifetime of proper storage, these wines have begun to develop a bit of sediment. While this sediment has done wonders to preserve the flavor, you don’t necessarily want it in your wine glass.
When you are preparing to finally open a treasured old bottle of wine, let it stand upright—for as long as it takes for the wine to become clear. This upright position allows the sediment to fall to the bottom of the bottle, where it will stay. This could take hours, or it could take weeks!
The older the wine, the longer it will take. If planning for a special day or event, get that bottle out and upright good and early.
Once the wine is clear, you can open it up and decant it. In fact, if you plan on decanting then we recommend using the flashlight method. To decant the wine via flashlight, shine the light into the neck of the bottle to keep an eye out for the sediment. When you see the sediment hit the neck of the bottle then you stop pouring, leaving the sediment in the bottle and out of the decanter to keep it from your wine glass.
Another Pro-Tip: Once opened, wine should be consumed within 3 to 5 days before it begins to lose its flavor. After a full week, it may begin to taste like vinegar. Plan accordingly.
If you’ve taken all the steps to store the wine properly up to this point, then you should be able to enjoy your bottle of wine at the peak of its flavor profile.
Your wine professionals
The bottom line is that if you value your wine collection, you’ve got your work cut out for you. When it comes to packing, moving, and storing, there are many ways to go wrong. For something as important as this, it may be best to work with professionals.
Meathead Movers are professional packing, moving, and even storing experts. Whether you’re moving across the country or across the street, our qualified packers and movers will make sure that your wine arrives safely, tasting just as sweet as you hoped. We know how to deal with prized possessions, and your wine is no different.
Meathead wine storage
But our assistance doesn’t stop with packing and moving. When you arrive at your destination, you may find that you don’t have the resources to properly store your wine. If that’s the case, Meathead Wine Storage has got you covered.
Our 427-unit facility has redundant and monitored temperature and humidification systems, a 24-hour video surveillance system with LED motion detection lighting, and a backup power plan. These state-of-the-art personal wine lockers are built to ensure peace of mind for customers. Another invaluable benefit clients receive by leasing a locker from Meathead Wine Storage is the convenience of having wine shipments and/or wine club deliveries made directly to the facility.
Direct wine deliveries
We understand you don’t always have someone over the age of 21 waiting around the house to sign for your next wine club shipment. You also may not be able to visit wine country as frequently as you would like, and belong to several wine clubs. A great solution is to schedule your wine club shipments to be shipped directly to your wine locker, for convenience. Some of our clients live in states where California wineries can’t ship to, or they receive weather restrictions due to frost or excessive heat. Some clients even end up timing their vacations around the next wine release date! By accepting wine club shipments on our clients’ behalf, they can trust that their wine is placed in their locker by management and properly stored for them to enjoy at their leisure.