Before laying down a wine, make sure you know when it should ideally be consumed. Some wines don’t gain anything from being kept in bottle, since they are already ready to drink upon release. Some examples of wines that do not age are wines produced in the Vinho Verde region, and red wines from Alentejo and Ribatejo. If you are building a cellar, it is important that you choose wines according to your personal taste and drinking habits. In other words, only purchase wines you will be able to drink before they begin to go bad. If you are purchasing wines to lay down, do your homework and make sure that what you are laying down will reward your patience.
The cellar should be an open space, protected from light and temperature fluctuations (which should be between 7ºC and 13ºC). When there are major temperature fluctuations, the wine may escape through the bottle’s cork or capsule, meaning the wine may become oxidized, cooked, or the cork will dry out. Humidity is another aspect to consider: it should be between 60% and 75%. If the cellar is too humid, you may buy lime blocks to absorb humidity or a dehumidifier. If, on the other hand, you need to increase air humidity, it is best to water the floor (if possible). To regulate the temperature and humidity levels, you could invest in a thermometer and a hygrometer. A more expensive option is to install a refrigerated cellar, where temperature and humidity are constant and easily controlled. Stand alone cellars are also a great option, and can be purchased in sizes ranging from a small 24 bottle capacity and up to more than 500 bottles. The advantage to a stand-alone cellar is that they are easily regulated with their own cooling system, and many are beautifully made and can even match your décor. Once in the cellar, the wine should be moved as little as possible, so ideally, you should plan your bottle arrangement before you begin. Bottles should be kept horizontally so that the wine stays in contact with the cork. This way, the cork won’t dry and allow air to get in. The best bottles should be nearer to the ground, since it is the coolest area in the cellar. Tawny Port, Madeira and other fortified wines should be stored vertically, since they are made up of elements that may damage the corks when in permanent contact.