As long as you follow a few basic rules, you can keep a small collection almost anywhere. Along with the passage of time, wine ages - and can be ruined - due to light, air, and extreme temperature, so these are the elements you need to control.

1. Keep your wine out of sunlight.

2. Store it somewhere that's not very hot or cold; keep it where the temperature is consistent.

3. Keep it out of closets with strong smells that could permeate the cork, such as food, cleaning supplies, paints, and garden chemicals - unless those are your favorite flavors. For these reasons, garages and kitchens are big no-nos. And another thing, always store your wine on its side so the cork stays moist and no oxygen gets in to ruin the wine. Oxidized wines - both white and red - turn brown and taste like sherry.

THE CELLAR
As your passion increases, you may decide you need a serious storage space. Consider converting a part of a basement, pantry, extra bedroom, or walk-in closet. Keep the space at about 49 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit, with a relative humidity between 60 to 80 percent. This isn't as hard as it sounds, especially with kits, books, and professional help available - most notably Richard M. Gold's How and Why to Build a Wine Cellar. If that sounds like too much work, or you don't have the space, you can purchase a freestanding unit. These range from the size of an under-the-counter refrigerator (starting at around $380) to a prefab walk-in wine room (with prices up to $6,000).

A good rule of thumb, no matter what type of cellar you opt for: Buy twice as much space as you think you need. You'll be surprised how fast it fills up as your habit grows. A national catalog with a superb selection of cellars - and good prices - is International Wine Accessories, where you can find options for the do-it-yourselfer alongside plug-it-in-and-go models. Call (800) 527-4072 for an issue.