I have about 50 bottles of wine. Should I buy a wine fridge?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I have about 50 bottles of wine in my collection. Eighteen are stored on a wine rack and the remaining bottles are in my pantry or still in their shipping boxes. Should I invest in a wine fridge? A larger wine rack? How do you know when it’s time to upgrade your wine storage?

—Courtney, Atlanta

Dear Courtney,

The answer to how and when to upgrade wine storage conditions is going to vary from person to person. But I can tell you that in my experience, once you start purchasing and saving wines, your collection is likely to grow.

One way to assess your personal wine storage needs is to take a look at how much you spend annually on wine. If a 50-bottle wine-cooling unit for $1,000 is less than 25 percent (or less than 10 percent!) of your annual wine-buying budget, you might want to think about making a purchase: You’ve already invested in wine, might as well protect it. Of course, considering you already have enough wine to fill a 50-bottle unit, I’d recommend you look for something larger than that.

That said, everyone’s situation is different. My own journey into wine storage started with cardboard boxes in the corner of a closet, eventually moving into a wine cooler (and then two) and eventually into an actual cellar. Cardboard boxes are fine for storage, especially for those of us who can't afford to build the cellar of our dreams. If you place a cardboard box so the wine bottles inside it are on their side, that will keep the corks in contact with the wine and help prevent them from drying out. But cardboard boxes generally aren't very strong, and they will deteriorate with age.

Whatever your budget, store the bottles on their side, away from light, heat, temperature fluctuation and vibration. If you can afford temperature and humidity control, store your wines at about 55° F and 70 percent humidity.

—Dr. Vinny

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