“Wine likes to grow up slowly in dark, cool conditions,” says Natalie MacLean, author of Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass. If it’s too hot, the wine will age too quickly. It’s the difference between cooking your dinner in the microwave versus slow-roasting it.”

The ideal temperature for storing wine is 55 degrees Fahrenheit, with a humidity level around 75 percent. The cool temperature helps the wine mature at a slow, steady rate, maintaining optimal taste during the storage period. Since most fine wines are plugged with natural cork, and not topped with a synthetic version or a metal screwcap (an option that is increasingly popular with moderately priced wines), cool temperatures and high humidity levels help prevent the cork from becoming dry and brittle, which would allow air into the bottle. Wine that is exposed to air or too much sunlight oxidizes, turns brown, like apple slices, and ends up tasting like spoiled fruit. Storing bottles on their sides also helps keep the cork hydrated.

A wine fridge is convenient for entertaining, since the wines are both close at hand and ready to serve,” MacLean says . Alternatively, you could simply expand your basement storage by adding racks and keeping an eye on sudden temperature spikes or dips. As long as the temperature fluctuates gradually, you’re OK,” MacLean says. “Many people have basements that are naturally cooler than the rest of their homes, and a cool basement is a better place to store wine than a warm house.”

If you pour wine daily, are you likely to have several varietals of wine on hand to pair with meals? If so, you’ll need the same storage conditions already discussed, but with more space in which to store bottles. “lf you drink a glass of inexpensive wine every day or so, you’re probably not buying bottles that need to be aged,” MacLean says. “In that case, you don’t need a cellar, just a place to put bottles that is away from the extremes of heat and cold.”

Expert pick for best storage and accessories for your wine

Natalie MacLean’s pick: Sub-Zero undercounter wine refrigerator ($2,500; 8OO-222-7820 or www.subzero.com ) Why: These fridges provide a great staging area when you’re entertaining. You can store up to 45 bottles instead of running back and forth to the cellar. This model is UL-approved meaning it’s safe to use in outdoor kitchen settings.