What Are The Best Woods To Use For Wine Racks? Do They Need To Be Stained Or Finished?

What Are The Best Woods To Use For Wine Racks? Do They Need To Be Stained Or Finished?


There are only a handful of woods that are suitable for use in a wine racks. The two most popular woods used for customer wine cellar racking are Redwood and Mahogany. Raised in the cool, damp forests of Northern California, All Heart Redwood is the perfect choice for a custom wine cellar. There is no other North American wood that has as much resistance to rot, mildew and insects as Redwood. As the tree grows the heart takes on minerals which give it the reddish brown tones and resistance to decay. When freshly milled it ranges in color from pink to red to dark brown with reddish overlay. As it ages natural unstained All Heart Redwood takes on increasing darker depth of beautiful color as it oxidizes. Mahogany is a dense hardwood which is resistant to shrinking, warping and checking. It is also an excellent choice for wine cellars due to its resistant to rotting, decay and infestation. There is also no characteristic odor associated with this species of wood, which is critical for a wine cellar as not to affect the wine. Both species have the natural ability to withstand the cool, humid environment in a climate controlled wine cellar.

Pine can also be used for wine racks; however it is not as dense of a wood so it tends not to produce as sturdy and stable of a rack. Pine also has a tendency to emit certain odors that can be harmful to wine over time, the same goes for cedar. Oak is also a popular option for racks, particularly when they are produced from reclaimed oak barrels. These can be very attractive and even give off the smell of an old wine cellar. Oak is also used for certain kit and custom racks but can be hard to work with and install as it is an extremely dense wood.

All of these options take very nicely to stain, lacquer and various finishes. However any type of finish on a rack is purely for aesthetics and it does not increase the integrity of the rack. Many people prefer the look of natural wood and to keep it unfinished, which is completely safe. In fact most wood racks that are not stained or finished will get darker in color over time and gain richness. But if you are looking to match some of the furniture in your home or prefer a certain color, then opting to stain your racks or have them pre-stained is a viable option. If you choose to stain them yourself you want to make sure to use water based products, as the smell from oil based finishes can affect the integrity of the wine if the odors get into the bottle through the cork.

Shop this Article

From his first sips of wicker basket Chianti at his grandfather’s dinner table to a 1986 Premier Cru Gevrey-Chambertin, Tilden knew that there was something magical about wine. He earned his Diploma in Wine and Spirits from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and is a Certified Specialist of Wine with the Society of Wine Educators. Having been with Wine Enthusiast catalog since 2005, when he is not writing about wine he also runs the wine storage division and is head of W.E.’s in-house education program.