If you live in an earthquake-free zone, you can store your wine bottles pretty much anywhere and not give them a second thought.
They should be kept away from direct sunlight, of course, and at a relatively cool temperature. But that’s about it; you probably don’t need to worry about their “safety.”
However, if you live in California or anywhere else earthquakes are a possibility, then it’s advisable to give your “storage system” some thought.
As the pictures from the aftermath of Sunday morning’s earthquake in California’s North Coast wine country have shown, the worst damage occurred in home storage rooms and winery cellars where the floors are made of hard substances — wood or, worse, cement.
Which makes sense: When you drop a glass bottle on a hard surface with no “give,” that bottle is likely to shatter.
Most California winery owners understand this, and many have invested in expensive “shelving” systems for both their bottles and barrels — systems that are designed to withstand shaking. So, when you see barrels strewn across cellar floors, some of them shattered, you know this was no small quake. It may not have been THE big one, but it certainly was A big one. And the bigger the quake, the less likely even well-thought-out shelving and stacking systems are to hold up.
Personal wine collections, of course, are much smaller than winery inventories, but many of the bottles we keep at home are precious for one reason or another. Precious or not, we eventually want to be able to drink and enjoy each and every one of those bottles, so we need to keep them all safe.
Here are a few tips for doing just that:
1. Invest in wine racks. Even low-tech, assemble-yourself wooden racks are better than no racks at all, because they help keep bottles in place.
2. Don’t build racks too high. My home rack is four rows high — which means if a bottle is shaken loose by an earthquake, it doesn’t have far to fall. The farther a bottle falls, the greater the velocity when it hits the floor, and the more likely it is to break.
3. Provide a soft landing. I’ve never understood why so many wine collectors opt for wooden floors in their home “cellars.” It’s most likely a design decision, because wooden floors are attractive and fairly easy to keep clean. But they provide no “cushion” for a falling wine bottle, as so many post-earthquake Facebook postings have demonstrated. If bottle safety is a concern, it’s a good idea to install nice, thick carpeting in the wine storage room.
We native Californians have grown up with earthquakes and tend to take them for granted — until a big one hits, like the one that shook up North Coast wine country early Sunday morning. That quake provided a reminder that the more we invest in wine, the more we should do to protect it.