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Andy Thomson

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No cellar; how best to store wine...

by Andy Thomson » Fri May 26, 2006 2:54 pm

Hello! I'm completely new to this forum and feeling distinctly amateurish after reading some of the posts! I have a very small collection of wine that I'm wondering what to do with... I'm giving considerable thought to drinking it at some point :D but in the meantime it needs to be stored somewhere - and we don't have a cellar.

The current plan is to stick the bottles in a wine rack at the bottom of a cupboard away from the kitchen which won't get much direct sunlight. It would be impractical to install a wine fridge. I know that old fashioned larders had big stone shelves to keep the contents at a lower and more constant temperature, but I'm not sure if that would actually work in this case. Can anyone give me some advice about this?

Some of the wine I've had for three to four years already and was in racks in a kitchen. Given that this will have subjected the wine to higher and more variable temperatures, I understand this may have caused some damage. What's the best thing to do? I have Riesling, Chardonnay, Chateauneuf-du-Pape and various Champagnes. Will any be worth storing further or is it time to crack open a few and see if they're still drinkable?

Thanks, Andy
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Mike Conner

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Re: No cellar; how best to store wine...

by Mike Conner » Fri May 26, 2006 3:45 pm

Andy,

First, welcome to the group!

I am fairly sure that you'll get many comments here, but the biggest one is that for any long-term storage of (even relatively) long-lived wines (long term: 5+-ish years), you'll need to find a storage solution. Even if like mine at the moment... the downstairs rec room that is 1/2 underground that I can keep no warmer than 60 degrees (F) year round. Not the overall best solution (my take on that is 55F with little fluctuation and fairly high humidity).

Could you somehow convert a closet by doing a little insulation and find an old small air conditioner? Several on this board have modified air conditioners to run lower than normal to keep areas at or near 55F.

As for your other question on drinkability of the wines you've had stored so far, I would counsel that yes, start trying them soon. Especially the most delicate wines such as Champagnes and the lighter bodied whites and reds. Often the bigger reds can survive in less than ideal conditions, but they usually will age at a faster 'rate' than under good conditions.

One of the worst things for good wines is to have them undergo wide fluctuations in temperature in a short amount of time. During the short spring and fall we usually get here, I'll run my whole house fan to draw the air temp down to 60F or less during the evening, in the hopes that the air condx won't click on till 71 or 72F in the late afternoon (thereby keeping $ in my pocket to buy wine!). Swings of that sort of temperature could be devastating to the storage of fine wine in an 'uncontrolled' area such as you might be describing.

As many have said here in the past, it is worth the pain to forgoe (sp?) any wine purchases and plow that money into a wine cellar/cooler solution. For years, I had a big hulking wine cooling unit in my living room. Sometimes a slightly annoyingly loud solution, but much better than the usual temperature fluctuations that my apartment went through during a year.

My ultimate plan is to build a very insulated area into the house-side wall of my garage with 2 air condx cooling units (or, perhaps a split cooling solution with a regular air condx as backup).

Of course, if you only intend to hold your wines for a few years (2-5) then the most stable temperature-wise solution you can create will do O.K. for your needs.

Good Luck!

Mike
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David Lole

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Re: No cellar; how best to store wine...

by David Lole » Fri May 26, 2006 4:10 pm

Mike,

If your current cellar goes no higher than 60F, you have nothing to worry about. I take it there's not much day to day variation either. I've run a passive semi-underground cellar for 14 years (with excellent humidity) that fluctuates from 55F to 70F over a 12 month period with the 70F only for a month in the hottest of summers. Less than 1 degree variation noted in any 24 hour period. It constantly produces wines in pristine condition - I'm still drinking wines put there from the word go.
Cheers,

David
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wrcstl

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Re: No cellar; how best to store wine...

by wrcstl » Fri May 26, 2006 5:11 pm

Andy,
You may not be in the majority of the wine geeks on this forum but you are well within the larger majority of more serious wine drinkers in the country. I help friends purchase wines that they would enjoy at their request. Non of these people have a cellar but all have a method of storage for at least the 1-5 year strorage horizon. Find a place in your basement, in a corner, dark and not near vibration. Hopefullly this never gets above 75 degrees and you should be OK. People on this forum will say 75 is too high for long term storage and I agree if it was all year around. The key is gradual temp changes and the fact that in the winter it is no where near 75 degrees helps. If you want to go all the way out, build a little closet in the corner with at least one outside wall and insulate the heck out of it. This should lower your temp a few more degrees.

I would be afrraid of an AC in a small closet because it takes all the moisture out of the air and could damage the corks abilty to seal.

I am sure others will give you their opinion and some may not agree with me but hey, they pay the same price to post here as I do. Good luck on you wine collection. It is a very civilized hobby and one to share with friends.
Walt
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Ian Sutton

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Re: No cellar; how best to store wine...

by Ian Sutton » Fri May 26, 2006 5:39 pm

Basically choose any place that is generally not hot, ideally quite cool (but not somewhere that would freeze). Then find sturdy wine boxes (supermarkets usually give them away), or fruit packing crates (ditto), as much insulating material as you can get, and pack the wine into the boxes.

Create a simple spreadsheet, database or use a web solution (e.g. cellartracker) to keep track of where you put everything

These days I see wine racks in furniture shops and cringe because most wine that ends up stored in them is then subject regular doses of light and heat (but hey it looks so nice in the rack :roll: ).

Box them up and insulate them and they should last pretty well. How much faster they'd mature (than a "perfect" cellar) is something there's usually a lot of opinion on, but rarely do we allow facts to get in the way of our own opinions :wink:

It will probably pay to have one box with "fully mature" or "ready to drink" wines in, so it's easy to just grab a bottle. Re-stock it from other boxes every now and again.

Have fun

Ian
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Isaac

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Re: No cellar; how best to store wine...

by Isaac » Fri May 26, 2006 6:00 pm

I was in the Navy, moving every two years, on average. We kept our better wines in the closet, on the floor. No temperature control, no humidity control, and excessive movement every few years.

Most did just fine. Lots of coats and keeping the door closed kept the temperature variations to a minimum, and damped the vibrations. I recommend this as the best solution for anyone withno other options.

Last year, I bought a used refrigerator, and adjusted the thermostat to the mid-fifties. It holds about eight cases. There's very little vibration, due, I think, to the large mass of eight cases of wine. There is some temperature fluctuation, since it's in my garage, and it gets cool in the winter. Refers don't heat things up. However, it's pretty well insulated, and the temperature didn't go below 50F. Fluctuations are extremely slow.

A few months ago, I got lucky and came across a Sanyo wine unit at Goodwill for $80. That's in my dining area. We use that for the "drink now" wines, and the refer for the longer term agers.

Too early to tell how all this will work out. check back with me in 3-5 years!
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James Dietz

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Re: No cellar; how best to store wine...

by James Dietz » Fri May 26, 2006 7:31 pm

Home Depot has small units for less than $200 that work well and look nice... We had a 36 bottle unit built into our kitchen.. with the stainless steel and glass door, it looks like it costs a lot more...

We also have a 450 bottle Vinotemp unit in the garage.. but you are not there yet.. but you will be!!!
Cheers, Jim
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wrcstl

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Re: No cellar; how best to store wine...

by wrcstl » Sat May 27, 2006 10:36 am

Isaac wrote:I was in the Navy, moving every two years, on average. We kept our better wines in the closet, on the floor. No temperature control, no humidity control, and excessive movement every few years.

Most did just fine. Lots of coats and keeping the door closed kept the temperature variations to a minimum, and damped the vibrations. I recommend this as the best solution for anyone withno other options.

Last year, I bought a used refrigerator, and adjusted the thermostat to the mid-fifties. It holds about eight cases. There's very little vibration, due, I think, to the large mass of eight cases of wine. There is some temperature fluctuation, since it's in my garage, and it gets cool in the winter. Refers don't heat things up. However, it's pretty well insulated, and the temperature didn't go below 50F. Fluctuations are extremely slow.

A few months ago, I got lucky and came across a Sanyo wine unit at Goodwill for $80. That's in my dining area. We use that for the "drink now" wines, and the refer for the longer term agers.

Too early to tell how all this will work out. check back with me in 3-5 years!


Issac,
You get an A for effort and my guess your wine is as good as anyones unless you are opening '70 Bordeaux. Think we make this stuff too complicated. I have a temp controlled cellar but only expense was a cooling unit and a few 2X4s. Built all of the racks from scrap wood from work and left over stuff from a building site.
Walt
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Re: No cellar; how best to store wine...

by Isaac » Sat May 27, 2006 10:57 am

Thanks, Walt. I'm a long way from drinking 35-year-old Bordeaux. I have some buying to do!

On the other hand, as I'm already 50, even if I start buying, I probably won't get to drink 35-year-old Bordeaux. Oh, well, my daughters will appreciate it!
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Re: No cellar; how best to store wine...

by wrcstl » Sat May 27, 2006 2:49 pm

Isaac wrote:Thanks, Walt. I'm a long way from drinking 35-year-old Bordeaux. I have some buying to do!

On the other hand, as I'm already 50, even if I start buying, I probably won't get to drink 35-year-old Bordeaux. Oh, well, my daughters will appreciate it!


Issac,
You are wrong. When you turn 70 you can start opening some of those '89 Bordeaux. They will last that long and be 36 years old. You could store some '96 Bordeaux and drink them at 30 which should be near the prime.
Walt
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Mike Conner

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Re: No cellar; how best to store wine...

by Mike Conner » Sun May 28, 2006 5:18 pm

David,

Storage conditions are decent, although the humidity could be higher.

But, as my wine is currently spread throughout my 'rec room' downstairs, and in the area that a small wood stove is, I want it out so I can take over use of the rec room, and if power ever went out, I could use the stove to heat at least enough of the house to live in.

So, I have other reasons for wanting to build a true cellar for my bottles.

Thanks,

Mike
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Mike Conner

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Re: No cellar; how best to store wine...

by Mike Conner » Sun May 28, 2006 6:07 pm

Walt,

Yuo brought up a good point - something I should have mentioned. With a room air condx unit, low humidity might become an issue. I should have said to be aware of humidity and if it should get low, buy one of those inexpensive humidifiers to add humidity to the area.

Thanks,

Mike
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Re: No cellar; how best to store wine...

by Isaac » Sun May 28, 2006 10:17 pm

wrcstl wrote:
Isaac wrote:Thanks, Walt. I'm a long way from drinking 35-year-old Bordeaux. I have some buying to do!

On the other hand, as I'm already 50, even if I start buying, I probably won't get to drink 35-year-old Bordeaux. Oh, well, my daughters will appreciate it!


Issac,
You are wrong. When you turn 70 you can start opening some of those '89 Bordeaux. They will last that long and be 36 years old. You could store some '96 Bordeaux and drink them at 30 which should be near the prime.
Walt
I'm not sure I can afford any '89 Bordeaux, or even '96.

Not that I'm poor, just cheap!

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