The Complete Guide to Finding the Best Wine Racks

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Finding the best wine racks can open up your storage space and ensure your wine is in a safe place. But wine racks can be more than that–investing in wine racks that fit your home and provide security for your wine collection can truly transform a room.

John Papa and Sara Papa know this firsthand. Sara Papa, CEO of John Michael Associates and husband John have had a cellar for storing wine for a decade. But it’s only recently that it was fully transformed into what they label as a cave a’ vin.

The room was perfect for their collection of wines, and had all of the elements for optimal storage: climate controlled, with a vapor lock and no harsh lighting, set away from other living spaces. Unlike other basements, the cellar also stays within the optimal temperature range, a nice cool fifty or so degrees Fahrenheit.

It just wasn’t being used to its full potential. What the couple did finally settle on was not just some wine racks, but an elegant design nodding to old Tuscany, complete with enough racks to fill much of the twenty by sixteen-foot space, but also enough room to move freely and even stay for a bit.

Now, John and Sara Papa not only have a proper place to store their collection of California wines; they have a beautiful space of cascading racks, antique wood, pillars, and even a small table to have a glass of wine while you’re down there.

Does everyone buy wine racks?

No. It’s true that not everyone immediately, or even ever, invest in wine racks. Ben Lasman, a regular contributor to Wine Spectator, notes that most consumers tend to look into finding wine racks simply when they feel they are running out of space. Like any other shelving unit, many see wine racks as a way to optimize storage and organize a room.

If you’re someone who only buys a bottle of wine occasionally, it’s understandable that you may have not looked into buying wine racks up until now. And even if you have just a modest collection of wine, you might reason that you don’t have to purchase wine racks.

While all of this is technically true, what’s missing is that wine racks have a number of benefits, both pragmatic and aesthetic, that might make them a more attractive purchase than you might imagine.

Are wine racks the best way to store wine?

When it comes to storing wine, you actually have a few options. Many invest in wine cooling units to make sure their wine stays as fresh as possible. Either way, you do need to invest in a storage space that is climate controlled to ensure your wine stays fresh for as long as possible and is not susceptible to common problems, such as over oxidation or exposure to contaminants.

So how do you decide between wine racks and cooling units?

For some, purchasing a cooling unit and having wine racks installed makes sense. It’s a way to optimize storage space, open up a room, and even to keep your wine collection organized.

In a nutshell, it’s not that wine racks or cooling units are inherently superior over one another; they just have different pros and cons.

Should I purchase a cooling unit or look into wine racks?

As we’ve already suggested, there are a number of reasons someone might look to purchasing wine racks or wine refrigerators first, but many do invest in both. So if you’re just starting to build a wine collection, which one should be a priority?

Much of it comes down to the following factors:

  • Aesthetics. For a traditional or classic feel to storage space, wine racks offer a beautiful way to showcase collections, especially if you have one that is moderate to larger in size and consider yourself a collector. Wine racks can truly create a beautiful room and can even create a space to congregate, as was the case for John and Sara Papa.
  • Organization. Both wine racks and cooling units are ways to organize your wine. It may be easier, however, to see individual wine labels on shelving and rack units as opposed to inside coolers. Some do prefer combining the two storage options, by relegating certain bottles of wine to cooling units, while keeping others set on racks. This especially makes sense if you want to store opened bottles of wine in a cooler, or bottles you may use more, and other bottles for display. The optimal storage for your wine collection is likely investing in both a cooling unit and wine racks eventually.
  • Climate control. One caution that Mr. Lasman of Wine Spectator gives is that you need to make sure if you do opt for wine racks, that they are in a climate controlled space. Many assume that their basement is just fine, but the reality is that most basements don’t inherently meet the qualifications for optimal storage, which we will discuss in a minute. If this is the case, and it is not much you can, or will, do to change conditions, then investing in a wine cooling unit instead may make more sense. Wine cooling units will control conditions for you, ensuring your wine stays consistently fresh.
  • Collection size. If you are able to control climate and conditions, a very simple factor to consider is the size of your collection, and whether or not it makes sense to invest in wine racks. If you have a very small collection, or if you simply want somewhere to store wine every now and then, a wine cooler is going to make more sense. If on the other hand, you’re growing quite a sizeable collection, cooling units probably aren’t going to cut it.
  • Cost. Do you have the budget for wine racks? Most cooling units are fairly affordable but costs for wine racks vary quite a bit. While the racks themselves are not overly expensive, if you want racks installed, you’ll have to pay for labor as well. A room of rack units can be quite expensive but the good news is, for both racks and cooling units, you do have a variety of options.

How do I know if I have the ideal climate for storing wine?

One way to guide you to your decision is to consider if you’re able to keep a space ideal for storing wine, or if you might want to invest in cooling units. The ideal climate for storing wine is somewhere between fifty-five and fifty-nine degrees Fahrenheit, with fifty-five to seventy-five percent humidity. It’s also important that those conditions more or less stay consistent. Likewise, it’s best if it’s not a high traffic area. The reason is that wine is best when stored in dim or no lighting. UV light actually does harm the wine. One reason wine coolers are popular as well is that lighting can automatically switch off when it’s not in use.

If you can control for these conditions, you’ll also want to invest in softer lights, and maybe even lights that switch on and off automatically.

What different types of wine racks are available?

If you’re seriously considering buying a wine rack, you’ll want to start first with thinking about what kind of wine racks are available, and there are many options. For our purposes, let’s start with two basic categories: freestanding vs installed. Freestanding racks, as they sound, are independent units and quite popular. Not only are you able to move them around as you like, but they also tend to be more affordable and easier to find. No labor, aside from initial and fairly basically assembly, is typically required.

In terms of installed units, you might have to have them custom ordered and also will likely need to hire contractors for installation. Installed racks can create a beautiful, classic wine cellar look, but so can freestanding units. What you select may ultimately come down to budget and what makes the most sense for you.

What styles are freestanding wine racks available in?

Freestanding racks are available in many styles and sizes that can fit your space both on spatially and aesthetically. Here are some options to consider:

  • Stacking or Modular. These wine racks have a very modern feel to them, usually featuring frames that are rectangular; most also are versatile and can be positioned vertically as well. While not as aesthetically pleasing as some other options, stacking wine racks are a great option for optimizing storage space and can even be used in conjunction with other wine racks. Some, like this 72 bottle rack, even come in wood.
  • Vertical. Vertical, or floor wine racks are probably what you think about first when it comes to freestanding wine racks. They are perhaps the most pragmatic option, offering plenty of storage space and can be found in both more classic and more modern styles. Depending on their construction, they may also be a bit more sturdy than other freestanding racks. And of course, floor or vertical wine racks are useful for storing many bottles of wine.
  • Table. Wine racks you can set on a table are more of an accent piece. Obviously, they are not a practical solution for large storage needs, but they can add some ambiance to a room and showcase your most beloved bottles of wine. They are also about as inexpensive as you can get.
  • Hanging. Hanging wine racks are a bit less usual but can make a bold statement. Typically they are either unit connected to cabinets, which do need to be built in, or direct suspended from the ceiling, often over central tables. Again, while not the most practical for long term or large storage, they can create a central accent piece for a room. There is also wall mounted racks, like this simple one by Sorbus.
  • Simple shelf. Simple, horizontal shelves are another practical option for freestanding wine racks that are a no-fuss solution and relatively easy to find.
  • Carts. Some prefer wine rack carts as small units and a way to display wine, mostly for decor or entertaining. And of course, carts are easily moved and versatile. O&K Furniture makes a wine rack cart with a stylish industrial feel.

What styles might I consider if I want installed units?

Installed units also come in a number of varieties, styles, and shapes including:

  • Full wine cellar, which requires custom measurement and installation. This is your most expensive, but also the most elegant option. For a full wine cellar unit, you’ll have to go to a specialty or home improvement store.
  • Hanging. This falls in both categories, because, as we mentioned, many hanging wine rack units are installed directly attached to the cabinets. Convenient for a few bottles, this can be a fun option meant for design and entertaining.
  • Wall. If you want something in between and are not up for a full cellar, individual racks can be installed into walls. This may make sense for an aesthetic reason, but practically you may be just as well off going for some freestanding units.

What other factors do I need to consider before purchasing wine racks?

Style and even budget isn’t everything. In addition to the general type of wine rack, you also want to consider the following factors:

  1. Material. What is your wine rack made from? It’s important that a wine rack is not only durable but also fairly sturdy. The more wine is disturbed, the more the flavor and quality are impacted. While mild shaking will not mar wine, consistent disturbances will, especially in full body red and white wines, where sediment can rise to the top. Your best bet is to go with wine racks is sturdy steel or natural wood. Neither is highly preferred over the other, so long as there are strong bolts to keep it steady. However, do keep in mind that metal is less vulnerable to conditions like humidity. Wood may require more regular maintenance. If you’re looking for a stainless steel rack, consider this high capacity rack by Wine Enthusiast.
  2. Easy access. One of the main draws to a wine rack over cooling units is the display itself, but also how easy wine racks make it access the bottle of your choice. Open concept designs are the best way to go unless the rack is mostly for decorative purposes. Vertical and horizontal racks may also make more sense in terms of being able to organize bottles more efficiently.
  3. Style. Are you looking to find a rack that fits a more traditional or modern style? Natural wood feels a bit more traditional than metallics. A darker wood adds ambiance to space, while a lighter wood can help brighten it. Distressed looks vs polished looks will also greatly transform the space.
  4. Rack design. Here we’re not talking about style, and this is perhaps the most important factor you need to consider when trying to find the best wine rack. Wine, first of all, needs to be set sideways. This keeps the cork from forming tiny perforations by keeping it moist. The racks themselves also need to be slightly raised on a tilt, to ensure moisture continues to coat the cork.
  5. Capacity. How many bottles do you need to store? Do you plan on using a combination of wine cooling units and wine racks? You also need to see how much weight the wine rack can hold; this will most likely not be a primary concern but it will also give you an idea how heavy and perhaps sturdy the wine rack is.
  6. Different sizes. Some racks offer the ability to hold wine bottles of varying sizes, a factor many may not consider during their initial shopping.
  7. Reviews and warranty. Check out ratings and reviews for free standing wine racks, and pay attention not only to average ratings but also the reasons behind those ratings. It’s also best to go with a brand or company that has solid sales records and offers other related products. For installed units, check to see if they come with a warranty, and also get a fully itemized cost estimate, including installation.
  8. Other stability concerns. Wall wine racks are especially vulnerable to disturbances; U shaped hooks offer additional support by fitting around the bottle to keep it in place.
  9. Other features. Of course, there are many additional features you can select in terms of both style and function. Detailing, such as embellishments or scrollwork, can add a touch of elegance. Tabletops, even glass made ones, are sometimes available on top of stylish wine cabinets. Small lights are not only attractive but even practical for finding a bottle. Most free standing racks don’t come with many extra features, but little touches can make a substantial difference in transforming the space. If you’re interested in a wine rack with a glass tabletop, check out this Mango Steam 32 Bottle Wine Rack.

Are there any wine racks you can recommend?

This list is far from all-inclusive, but it does include a decent variety of different varieties of wine racks. For this list, we’ve taken the factors we’ve already covered into consideration, as well as different types of wine racks, so no matter your preference you have one option to start with.

  • For a highly affordable countertop rack, look at the bestselling Sorbus Bamboo Foldable Wine Rack. Want something highly affordable, but still attractive? This six bottle wine rack by Sorbus may not have a large capacity, but it can serve as an attractive accent if you’re hosting company. The bamboo is simple and pleasing to the eye, perfect for either traditional or modern room, and it’s foldable so you can store it away easily when it’s not in use. At under twenty dollars, it’s a bargain that’s hard to beat. The design features two horizontal shelves and weighs under two pounds. It also holds an average of 4.8 out of 5 stars based on nearly six hundred and eighty customer reviews. Of course, this hardly is a practical option for a large wine collection.
  • For a modern, innovative stackable wine rack, take a look at the Premium Stackable Wine Rack by Clever Chef. This wine rack by nature is stackable, meaning you can easily add to it and adjust it to fit any space. While not elegant, it may appeal to those with more modern spaces or storage concerns. At twenty-two dollars per ten bottle holders, it’s a decent deal and it also lightweight. The horizontal design (as is the case with all the wine racks we’ve mentioned) of course helps prevent oxidation by keeping the cork moist. It also happens to be temperature resistant.
  • For an elegant wine rack cart, look at Coaster Home Furnishings Frosted Glass Shelves with Chrome and White. While we also love the vintage look of the wine cart we mentioned earlier, this is another great option, perfect for entertaining. With a chrome and white finish and metal construction, it’s elegant and useful. You’ll get two glass shelves, a generous weight limit of sixty-six pounds, and easy to move caster wheels. While not intended for a long term storage solution, it’s a beautiful option to showcase your wine.
  • For a larger capacity free standing wine rack, Smartxchoices 54 Bottle Black Steel Wine Rack may be a good option. Smartxchoices 54 Bottle Wine Rack is made with steel for durability and strength. Though strong, it can also be folded away for storage. It requires little assembly and is made to reduce wobbling, with rubber feet. It has a four out of five-star average rating. The most common complaint is that assembly is a little more particular than some had hoped.
  • For a mounted wine rack option, consider the DCIGNA Wall Mounted Rack. The DCIGNA wine rack comes in stylish metal and pine wood and can hold up to six bottles at a time. It’s an attractive space saver that can make any room pop and is a great solution for entertaining. It’s also suitable for holding other things, such as paper towels, making it versatile. Of course, it’s pretty low capacity, and the manufacturers did note that holes should be drilled only after assembly.
  • Need a larger capacity wine rack with minimum vibration, the sFDisplay 144 Bottle Wine Rack is a solid option. If you have a really large collection but are still in search of a freestanding wine rack, we like this option. It’s made with beechwood and constructed with interlocking pieces to reduce vibrations. You won’t need extended assembly; because it’s a modular design, you can simply stack the shelves. It also includes hand beveled edges. Do note that while the wood is sealed, it is not yet finished, so it’s up to you to add the stain of your choice.

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Erin Jamieson

Erin Jamieson brings the latest information to you on wine flavors and types so you can enjoy your next glass to the fullest. In the past, she covered wine selections for weddings and engagement parties. She also previously worked with a private chef company to suggest the perfect wine pairings and believes there is a flavor for every occasion. Erin Jamieson holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Miami University of Ohio.

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