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What to Look for when Choosing Wine Racks

Download a PDF version of this Wine Racks - Features PageThere are many styles and quality levels of wine rack kits on the market today. Styles range from traditional wood wine rack kits, stack-able kits, double deep kits, metal rack kits to modular styles.

There are several thing to look for when choosing wooden wine racks.
(Traditional, stackable, & double deep kits. This also applies to wood custom racks.)

  1. What is the niche size. 3 ½” niches will accommodate the regular sized 750 bottles. If you want to store Pinots or larger or odd shaped bottles you will be out of luck. Look for wine racks that have a 3 ¾” niche size. You will then be able to fit most, if not all, of your 750s, even regular sized champagne bottles. You will need a little larger niche for any Magnum sized bottles.
  2. Be sure you are choosing a quality wood that will hold up well in a wine cellar environment. Redwood and mahogany are two of the most popular woods for in a climate controlled room. They withstand the humidity and temperatures well without cracking, warping or attracting mildew. Do not use cheap woods such as poplar, fir or especially cedar. Even what they call “non-aromatic” cedar still has a smell that can go through your cork and taint your wine.
  3. If you want a curved corner in your wine cellar, be sure to look closely at the corners offered in your kit racks. Some companies only offer segmented corner racks. These do not have the beautiful look of a true radius corner.
  4. Look closely at the construction of the wine rack kits. The front spacer bars should have dados or notches cut into them for a cleaner look and structural integrity. Dado stabilizer bars on the top and bottom of each piece will also add strength. Many wine rack companies do not include the top and bottom stabilizers.
  5. Check the bottom portion of your racks. They should have a toe kick or base that brings the racks up off of the floor. You do not want racks where the bottom bottle touches the floor when you put the bottle into the rack. Imagine inserting a bottle and having it hit the floor and burst. What a mess that would create and you could lose a prized bottle. Who wants their wine stored on the floor anyway? A 1 ½” toe kick is sufficient.
  6. Make sure the bottle holders, or ladder rungs as I like to call them, are sanded smooth. Sharp edges on these pieces can cause your labels to tear when placing your bottle into the racks or removing them. A damaged label can make the value of your wine decrease. It can also ruin a great presentation when dining and wining with your guests.
  7. Beware of ugly screws, or plugs showing on the front of your racks. Look for a wine rack where all of the screws used to assemble the rack are on the back or in areas that do not show. Plastic and wood plugs that hide the screws are also unacceptable for a well made rack.
  8. Look at the angle of the display rows. Display rows should be angled at a 15 degree angle. No more. A higher angle and the wine will no longer touch the cork. This could cause your cork to dry out and crack and your wine to get air into the bottle causing it to spoil.

Metal wine rack kits are a little easier to tell if you have a good quality rack.

  1. Look to see that the ends of the metal pieces that hold the bottles have a rubber or plastic tip. This will help to hide any sharp metal edges and give the rack a more finished look.
  2. Most metal racks will come in a choice of black or silver color. Some can be ordered in other colors as well for a more unique look to your cellar. Custom color racks will usually take longer to get.
  3. Metal racks can be wall mounted or floor to ceiling mounted or free standing. Choose carefully what will work best for you.
  4. Be aware of how these racks will attach to your walls. Depending on what is behind your walls, you may need special screws to attach your metal racks. You may want to add ½” plywood behind your walls when attaching this style of rack to the wall.

Modular wine racks are a completely different story

  • Modular wine racks can be made up of different components of kit racks of any variety. The best modular wine racks come pre-assembled. Modular means it is made up of groups of components. When people look for modular racks they usually do not want to assemble each piece on site. Pre-assembled modular racks are the way to go. Find a grouping that you like and that fits into your space. Easy installation and you will save money by not needing the racks themselves assembled.

  • Traditional styles and contemporary styles are available in modular racks. These pieces are more like furniture than your other “kit” syle racks. You can install them in your living room or they will also be at home in your wine cellar. They come in various sizes. 
  • Generally you will have options to choose from. Many modular racks offer options such as lacquer, led lighting, and side and back panels. 
  • Because the units are pre-assembled, shipping is usually a little higher on modular racks than those that will need assembly on site. However, the cost of assembly usually outweighs the added cost of the shipping. 
  • Be aware of the wood species used in your modular racks. The best modular racks use a Sapele mahogany. This wood has a naturally darker color than the Malaysian mahogany used in most kit racks. No need to stain these racks. Adding lacquer alone gives them a deep rich furniture finish. 
  • Look for modular racks where the lighting option is already installed in the racks. Purchasing and installing led lighting separately can get quite expensive. If you intend to add lighting to your racks, adding a lighting option, that comes pre-installed, to your modular package can actually save you money. 
  • Contemporary styles of modular kits come in a variety of styles and can be mixed and matched to make many different configurations. Some are attached to the walls while others have their own feet and stand on the floor.

To Summarize

Choose carefully when making your wine rack decision.  Look for the quality of the construction in detail.  If you do not want pre-sized units, you may want to choose custom wine racks.  Even then, you can usually tell the quality of the custom racks by the quality of the kit racks a company carries.  Ask the right questions.  Always use a company who specializes in wine racks.  A big mistake is thinking that your local woodworker or contractor can build wine racks correctly.  Decide if price or quality matters most to you.  You will be living with your wine racks for a long time.  Cheap is not always the best choice.

To see quality kit, custom, and modular wine racks that meet the above specifications, visit our website at

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