Storing wine on a boat that is constantly in motion, is arguably the most difficult of places to store wine for any period of time. Along with all of the normal cellaring conditions that need to be addressed and maintained to preserve wine at its best. The boats motion even moored in port and then the ever so increased agitation of wine as a boat or yacht sails. The motion not only affects the wine, by shaking, disturbing any sediment or deposits in certain quality, aged red wines. The aggressive motion can physically move the wine bottles in their racks and even to the point of damaged-broken bottles.
In a perfect world - one would store their fine, quality wines on shore and then only transfer what will be required for the voyage and cuisine that is to be served on the boat.
But for many this is not possible - plus for longer periods - those wines stored on a boat, you should try to limit its movement as much as possible - and one way is by storing it amidships near the boat’s centre-line. But ideally on a boat, you are best to open and enjoy your wine as promptly as possible. If you want or need to keep wine aboard for longer periods, it is best to store younger, less expensive wine. As the boat’s motion speeds up the ageing process of wine and for some young, tannic, well filtered red wines - the motion can actually improve their development.
If you are not able to design and build a temperature control cellar on your boat - temperature is a key condition to be managed and cooler is better. However in the tropics and warmer climates - cool conditions is a challenge so usually the coolest place on a boat is the bilge below the waterline.
Odours are also of concern when storing wine - as they can permeate a cork, so you should never store wine in an area with strong smells of diesel fumes, solvents, cleaning solutions. Obviously, you should keep wine well away from the engine and generator areas of the boat. You should also be aware that even onions or garlic can have adverse effects - so be careful to store wine in the galley.
For many weekend boat owners - it is ideal to store wines which are ‘ready-to-drink’, short-term storage wines. But for larger, more luxurious boats and yachts - they have occasions to store more expensive, aged and even more fragile fine wines on board.
Over the years I have been invited to design and catalogue wines cellars all over the world - when it comes to designing a cellar on a boat - I have seen outrageous and ingenious concepts to store and preserve wines. Budget can be an issue - but simply thinking things through carefully is the key.
I have seen on some of the most luxurious of boats, with temperature controlled wine fridges custom installed - but the shelves don’t firmly hold the wine bottles in place to prevent sideway movement during the boats motion. Wine fridges and storage cupboards that can’t be locked - so wines open the doors and fly out in rough conditions and smash, brake on the floor.
Some of the smaller budgets come up with some of most creative and successful options to securely store wine on boats. Like using wine cartons, cardboard courier wine boxes and even sourcing polystyrene bottle box lining - to ensure glass bottles are snug and don’t move, or worse break during rough conditions. Plus they can keep the wine free from light and even help to keep a constant temperature around the wine bottles. I can also suggest you can wrap the wines individually in newspaper - not the most attractive but it works.
For wines that are aged, more fragile (i.e. have a sediment or crust) - make sure you stand up the bottle for at least 24 hours, longer if possible before opening and serving - so that the sediment gathers at the base - decanting will also be required.
For longer wine storage, ensure there is constant humidity and good air circulation - as humidity is necessary in order to prevent corks from drying out. Also mold can develop in areas with longstanding moisture, or in high humidity. Low humidity can cause the cork to dry out, allowing more air into the bottle, so the ideal humidity level for wine storage is between 55% - 70%. High levels of movement or agitation of wine will greatly increase the rate of development and even chemical breakdown and can even affect the aroma of certain wines.
Finally - keep a journal of all your wines, so you know what you have and when best to enjoy them. Do all that you can to keep your wine-log up-to-date, as the last thing you want is to find a wine that is well past its best. Not only would it be a loss of money, but missing an opportunity to share a special wine, occasion with good food and friends.