Storing Wine on a Boat

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2011 • all rights reserved

When we started cruising, we thought it would be impossible to keep wine on the boat. Fortunately, it's not! Three ways to do it.

If you’re a wine drinker, you’ve already figured out that a boat is not the ideal place for storing wine.  It’s almost impossible to store bottles on their sides; there’s the motion of the boat; and, depending on where you’re located, there may not be many cool areas.

Dave and I would certainly never be considered “wine connoisseurs” — but that’s probably a plus on a boat.  I wouldn’t try to take great wine along, due to the difficulties in properly storing wine on a boat.

Still, it’s not at all impossible to have decent wine aboard.  And as we cruised, we learned a number of ways to keep wine on the boat without fear of broken bottles:

1.  Boxed wine. While wine-in-a-box has long been regarded as an inferior product, there are actually quite good wines available in boxes.  In both Mexico and Central America (as well as land travels in South America), we found one-liter boxes of wine that looked just like the one-liter juice boxes.  In the US, the Black Box wines are quite good and widely available, while Franzia and other brands come in 3- and 5-liter boxes for bargain-basement prices (some are decent, some not so).

When we started cruising, we thought it would be impossible to keep wine on the boat. Fortunately, it's not! Three ways to do it.For boaters, boxed wine can be better than bottled wine as it degrades far less over time.  Our experience was that boxed wine was much less affected by heat and motion than wine in bottles, and I’m guessing that the containers tend to be more airtight than corks.  Still, we tried to find storage spaces that were below the waterline and not next to the diesel in order to not subject the wine to more heat than was necessary in a tropical summer.

The boxes with spigots also make storing open wine much easier than the ones with spouts or, even worse, the ones that have to be cut open and aren’t resealable.

Boxes are easy to stow, as you don’t have to worry about breakage and they fit tightly together with little wasted space.  If you buy the boxes with an interior bladder (not the ones that are like a juice box), you can even remove the box to save additional space — and to get the cardboard off the boat and, with it, hiding places for bugs.  If you do this, just be sure to pad the locker you’re storing the bladders in so that the motion of the boat won’t chafe pinholes in the bags, leading to a big mess and, possibly worse, no wine! See Getting Rid of Wine Boxes for a good way to store and use the wine bladders.

The 1-liter TetraPaks of wine — they’re the ones that look like juice boxes — are great for storing in little nooks and crannies on the boat.  Aboard Que Tal, we had some small hidden compartments behind the back of the settee.  Only 4 to 5 inches deep, these areas were perfect for storing boxes of milk, juice and wine.

2.  Pad bottles with socks. Well, you can’t always buy boxed wine.  Or maybe someone gives you a bottle.  If you have a few bottles on board, the easiest thing to do is to slip each one in a thick tube sock and then wedge it in, upright, between other items in a locker.  I don’t like to put bottles on their sides, as they are more apt to roll and break in rough weather — or to have something fall on them and break them.

3.  Build a vertical wine rack. If you are a little more into wine and tend to have more bottles onboard, a great option is to convert a small top-opening locker into a vertical wine rack.

I wish I’d taken a picture of ours, but it’s actually very simple to do — it will probably only take an hour or two to make, depending on how far away the store is!  First, find a locker that is slightly taller than a bottle of wine and empty it out.  The bottom of the locker does NOT have to be totally flat.  Decide how much of the space you want to devote to the wine rack . . . or how many bottles you want it to hold.  You don’t have to use the entire locker!

FOLLOW UP:  I later wrote a longer post with photos showing exactly how we did this:  Glass Storage

Buy some 4″ PVC and cut it into 8″ lengths.  You need one piece per bottle that you intend to store.  Stand the PVC pieces up in the locker in sort of a honeycomb pattern and see how they’ll fit together, then remove all but two of the pieces.

Run a line of  PVC glue down the side of one where it will rest against the other, then put it in place.  Repeat with the other pieces of PVC.  Let the glue dry.  I recommend NOT gluing the PVC to the bottom of the locker as it will be a pain to remove should you ever want to.

When the glue is dry, slip each bottle of wine into a tube sock, then put it in one of the tubes.  We put bags of various dry goods around and over the “wine rack” to make the most of the space, and they probably also helped pad the bottles and insulate them from the tropical heat.

Doing this, we never had a bottle break and we also never had to listen to bottles clanking.  It also works well for other glass bottles, such as olive oil and specialty vinegars.

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Comments

  1. Gotta have wine on a sailboat for those sunsets! Thanks for the great tips!

  2. Store bottles below the water line, helps regulate temperature. The water is usually around a good drinking temperature for the wine – at least for me, maybe not a connoisseur.

  3. You just solved my problem/s .. ( where to put the wine , and what to do with an ice locker that’s not insulated )

    Thank you YET again :))

  4. We take a combination of Black Box wine and bottled wine with us cruising. I love the idea of the plastic container for the BB wine as I have been concerned to have the cardboard aboard.

    For the bottled wine, we wrap the bottles in thin sheets of bubble wrap that you can purchase in U-Haul stores, Walmart, Post Offices, or anywhere there are office supplies.

  5. Mike Sytsma says:

    I’ve taken an interest to home winemaking, except my home is my boat. I’ve made several bottls, and once bottled it can be stowed for the several months necessary(never made it to years). However the whole fermentation thing is disagreeable when conducted inside, and the airlocks are fragile. Has anybody else brewed onboard? A google search revealed nada.

  6. We store our bottles under the two steps down to the galley from the salon. We lay out a sheet of non skid mat stuff and lay down the first layer (about 5 bottles) then cover those bottles with a second layer of mat tucking it in a bit between bottles. Then on goes the next row of bottles. Just like stacking cord wood. Works great and they don’t roll around. Easy to see at a glance what’s in the ‘cellar’!

  7. We have stored wine in white and black tube socks since s/v Fiesty shared this with me 8 years ago. Then I put them in LLBean canvas bags in case they break. None so far and we have over 40k miles on our boat.

  8. Kelly Lerigny — Love the idea if if works — on the Tayana 37, the steps cover the engine, so it’d be way too hot for wine (but friends did make a space for a trash bin there). And Sue Waudby, thanks for sharing how well the socks work!

  9. Mary Dixon says:

    I like to crochet on the boat when tired of reading on my Nook. I’ve made some “socks” for a few wine bottles that we keep on the boat. I then store the bottles in a plastic can behind a settee. The “sock” also makes a nice gift for a fellow boater. Here is the pattern I like best. http://www.coatsandclark.com/Crafts/Crochet/Projects/HomeDec/WM1032+Crochet+Wine+Bottle+Cover.htm

  10. Brian Taite on Facebook says:

    Great tips!!!

  11. Ann Snider on Facebook says:

    At the boat show in Newport, the owner of a Nordic Tug 54 had over 100 bottles stored on the boat! He did have a small wine fridge but otherwise he stored them under the floor. I didn’t see the stash but I was shocked at the number!

  12. nice tips! We LOVE wine and have recently in past year fallen for “BOTA BOX”. It’s so good. Black Box is alright too.

    On our trip we were thinking of laying all the bags flat in a lower compartment.

  13. My “wine cellar” is under the floorboards composed of pvc pipe cut lengthwise and lined with foam tape and glued together. This way the bottles lie flat, don’t roll around, and are below the waterline.

  14. I wrap each bottle in a piece of that.non skid stuff they make place mats for boats out of (you can buy it in rolls) and put a rubber band around it. I lay the bottles down in a floor locker, along with other glass bottles wrapped the same way. I stuff some extra pieces of the mat stuff from bottles consumed onto any “holes” so there is no movement. Plus it’s a place to put the wraps that have no bottle to love and protect at the moment. No losses yet, and no noise.

  15. Katherine Whitby on Facebook says:

    also red stores better than white, you have to drink less than beer so takes less volume to store it. and the health benefits…. 🙂

  16. As always, good ideas from you, but we just never seem to keep our wine long enough to have storage issues 🙂

  17. Steve Mabbutt on Facebook says:

    That’s an interesting new concept for the family – having wine around long enough to need to store it …

  18. I wholeheartedly agree. The sacrifices we make for our health… although I still LOVE beer.

  19. Which reminds me…did you ever find that bottle of Champagne I hid on the boat?

  20. Although landlubbers, we travel with wine in the Styrofoam 6 packs that U Haul sells for “moving” wine – insulated, noise free. Have also used the tube socks, like the white for white and black for red wine idea 🙂 posted above

  21. I took a travel lunch bag and cut a hole for the wine spout. I put cloth duck tape around the hole to keep it from falling apart. This one has the freeze packs on the insides of the bag. The bag is flexible and can fit in the frig. Or short time in freezer
    Works great

  22. I crochet these bottle holders in a variety of colors as gifts to our boater friends.

  23. Empty a locker to store wine…isn’t that cute?

  24. Beautiful bracelet. Is that from Mystic Knotwork?

  25. store wine on a boat ?. it never gets the chance to be stored on our boat trips lol

  26. Last year I tried keeping the boxed wine bladder in my reefer without any additional containment. What a pain when it came time to pour my glass of wine. I saw your article about using a Rubbermaid cereal container and just happen to have one. Problem solved and it works perfectly although I haven’t drilled the hole. I just pull the spigot out when needed and stuff it back when done. Problem solving is why I love your posts!

  27. D and Don says:

    We like our wine. So we store five bottles in a large 6 mm plastic bag made by Zip-it after slipping an appropriate colored sock (white for white, other colors for red) on three of them to prevent rattling. They lay horizontally in our bilge below the sole, where the temperature is steadier and we have the weight down low for the boat. No rattling due to socks. To date no breakage, ever. (knock on wood)

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