When it comes to storing wine, there’s a world of difference between keeping it at home and entrusting it to a professional storage service. Yes, there are many steps you can take to ensure your home cellar will do an adequate job of keeping your wines at their best, but this can be expensive and time-consuming – and easy to get wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing. Unless you’re planning on drinking your wines in the foreseeable future, any bottles of value (or potential value) will certainly flourish best under professional care. Here’s everything you need to know.
What is professional wine storage?
There are two types of off-site storage options for wine collections: self-service and full-service. Self-service options are essentially climate-controlled ‘locker spaces’ for bottles – a Big Yellow Storage space for wine, as it were. Here, it’s up to you to ship, organise and check on your collection.
Full-service storage, however, is a complete care package with multiple options and choices. Here, authentication, precise climate-control, safer shipping methods, bottle information and greater security are included in the price of storage, which is paid annually or quarterly, and is dependent on the size of your collection and likelihood of adding to it over time. Costs can vary between warehouses, but you should expect to pay between £10-15 per case per annum – most facilities will have full insurance for the replacement value of the wine included in this price.
Look for these quality assurances
Not all warehouses are created equal, so if you’re exploring professional wine storage options, make sure to choose a warehouse that offers the following as a minimum:
Wines should be stored between 10°C and 15°C.
Humidity should be kept between 65% and 70%.
Bottles should be individually padded, and buildings should be structurally reinforced and – depending on your location – earthquake-proof.
Warehouses should be dimly-lit, or bottles placed in light-proof containers.
Shipping and movement
Shipments should be restricted during the hottest and coldest months of the year, with any shipments taking place in temperature-controlled containers. Bottles should be otherwise undisturbed.
Every bottle should be given a barcode that allows both you and the warehouse to keep track of it. Bottles kept in bonded facilities should come with proof of provenance.
Preventing theft is as important as preventing fraud. Ensure the premises have rigorous security mechanisms in place.
If you’re unsure about any of these provisions at a particular warehouse, choose another. It’s always worth paying a little more to make sure your collection is safe.
In-bond versus out-of-bond
You’ve got two further options when it comes to storing your wine; using a bonded warehouse, or out-of-bond facilities (many warehouses cover both). The difference between them comes down to tax.
If you buy and store wine in-bond, the wine is shipped directly from the winery (or another bonded warehouse) to the facility you choose – this is typically how En Primeur purchases are managed. You won’t actually see the wine in person, and you don’t have to pay any taxes or VAT on their purchase – you only pay taxes if you take the bottle out of storage.
Depending on your intentions for your wine, you might consider out-of-bond storage instead, which can prove cheaper over time, will give you faster access to your wines should you want them in your possession quickly, and will provide a safe and reliable home for wines already in your direct ownership.
Neither is inherently better than the other – the right choice largely depends on how you see your wine collection developing in the coming years. However, those seeking a maximum return on investment are often wise to purchase and store in-bond, because doing so allows you to prove a direct line of possession from the winery to the warehouse, thus eliminating any risk of fraud – it’s harder to sell a bottle straight from your personal cellar for its full value without proof of provenance. Furthermore, selling on directly from a bonded warehouse means you’ll avoid paying any taxes on the wine for the duration of your ownership.