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What do you use to cellar wine?


Brad Ballinger
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The post on cellaring guidelines prompted me to post this question.

There can be a lot of heated (no pun intended) discussion about whether or not the investment in a perfectly calibrated climate control system is worth the investment. Arguments pro are obvious. Argument con include that the wine will take forever to age/develop and may still be doing so (in a good way) by the time the owner tips out of the canoe.

So what "system" do you have, and why?

I have a passive cellar -- a dedicaed room in the basement that remains around 60-65 year round with long, gradual swings in temperature. It has served me well. I also try to get the wines I buy in my hands shortly upon release so I can control their resting temperature (a bottle of wine sitting for years on a retail shelf is always a risk IMO).

I don't see myself ever buying a climate system or a stand alone cooling unit unless I move somewhere that requires I do so.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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A passive system isn't an option for me as my house has no basement. I bought a stand alone cabinet type wine cellar a few years ago and keep it at 58*F, I've also got a 45 bottle wine fridge in the kitchen I keep at 45*F. The larger cabinet has all the reds and the ageworthy whites. The small fridge has whites that won't age and a handfull of other whites/sparklers that are ready to drink.

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A passive system isn't an option for me as my house has no basement. I bought a stand alone cabinet type wine cellar a few years ago and keep it at 58*F, I've also got a 45 bottle wine fridge in the kitchen I keep at 45*F. The larger cabinet has all the reds and the ageworthy whites. The small fridge has whites that won't age and a handfull of other whites/sparklers that are ready to drink.

One advantage to living in a cold climate state -- basements. But hence my comment at the end about if I ever moved...

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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For the last 12 years I have had a partially underground cellar, 3 sides are below grade and one is exposed to my basement. It remains between 50 and 60 degrees year round. The temperature changes are seasonal and occur gradually. I find this to be very satisfactory.

Before that I had a 440 bottle temerature controlled unit. It was noisey and unreliable. Twice it had to have the cooling unit re-charged in a three year period. Luckily I caught it both time before it turned into a wine oven. I would check the temperature 3 or 4 times a day, and was always listening for the compressor to make a funny noise alerting me to the ruination of bottles of Caymus and Cos'.

BTW, I think it's a good idea to have seperate insurance for your wine. Keep a current inventory off site.

David Cooper

"I'm no friggin genius". Rob Dibble

http://www.starlinebyirion.com/

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Shawn and I only have a single 45-bottle cheapo fridge similar to this one - however we found it when Home Depot had it one sale for $139 (after Thanksgiving). It holds 40-some bottles and may be similar to the one the Melkors have. I will probably buy another one this year (maybe two).

The bottom line is that our "good bottles" go in this fridge and the rest are stacked in cases around the house, getting warm. "The Rest" are the ones that we know are probably getting slightly ruined however the intent with these is to drink them within a year so long-term cellaring is not an issue.

I wish I had a cellar and have considered constructing a walled-in area in our garage that would be like a walk-in to which an air-conditioner could be attached. I've seen this done in numerous California houses to great success. Probably a bit costly for us. While I'd like a large, cabinet model like a EuroCave, it is easier to justify spending that kinda of money on wine!

I'm always interested in those folks with so much money that they hire cellaring companies to store their wine. There are ton of them in business and while I can see the benefit for the wine's sake, it is still hard for me to conceive of having so much money that one would always have a stock of good wine available AND have more of it stored elsewhere for later drinking.

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I have the spare bedroom in my house with an air conditioner in the window thats for the wine I make myself (about 90 cases a year). For the really good stuff my girlfriend bought a town house with a room fully insulated with a breezeaire unit. That's the way to go.

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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I have a passive cellar -- a dedicaed room in the basement that remains around 60-65 year round with long, gradual swings in temperature.  It has served me well. 

very much the same setup, though i don't have the dedicated room. it's more a dedicated corner -- that, and having removed most wood and all solvents, cleaners, &c., from the basement.

there's a bit of ventilation from outside if i want it during the warmer months, and temps don't vary much from the 60-65 range. no big spikes. a big advantage to living in Seattle.

an imperfect system, but i also refuse to buy a wine i'd be devastated by if it were ruined.

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I also use the passive system of the basement to cellar my wine. Temp stays between 58 and 64 degrees with only long swings of temp. Since I'm new at this most everything has only been down there about two years at most, but so far so good.

Best,

Mike

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i've got one of those 40-case vinotemps. i've had it for probably 5 or 6 years and never had a problem. the temp isn't set super-low; i've got it at about 65. but it's in a south-facing storage room in an un-air conditioned guest house, so that's pretty good (i bought the heavy duty cooler rather than the regular).

just this summer, though, i've noticed that it seems to be running all the time. the temp is steady, but the fan never seems to cycle off. air flow seems fine, but it's not very cold. does anyone know of anyone who does service on these things in southern california?

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During a remodeling project about 8 years ago I took a storage room off my kitchen and turned it into a cellar. It has a common wall with my garage so I installed a Breezeaire unit high in that wall and then built x-racks and bottle racks myself. It holds about 2000 bottles when jammed packed but has less than that now.

As an aside, I wonder whether others find themselves in my position. As I get older and the prices continue to climb into the stratosphere for many wines I previously thought I couldn't do without, I find I am buying fewer wines and smaller quantities to age and more that are drinkable now. Some of the release prices are so high that you can find well stored older vintages for the same or even less money. It helps that I have a wine merchant who is willing to help me search these out.

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I have a room in my basement that holds about 2000 bottles with built in racks. I initially kept it passive, but the temp swings were too wide with late summer peaks around 70 degrees, so I installed a cooling system, which keeps the cellar around 58 degrees year round.

dlc,

I share your issues and have been buying much less prodigiously than in the past, mostly because of current prices and the fact that I already have more wine than I can ever drink. I now buy wine mostly to fill in gaps or for specific drinking purposes. My summer standard has been a nice inexpensive prosecco..

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I am an apartment dweller, and I have a couple small climate-contolled cellar units that fit neatly underneath my counter facing the living room, so I have reliable storage for several cases of wine. My "good stuff" goes in there. Stuff for near-term drinking (or, stuff that just doesn't fit anywhere else) gets stored in a cool, dark closet on some shelving.

I like my climate-controlled cellar units, but I wish I would have listed to some advice that was given to me: "Buy bigger than you ever think you will need!" :shock: You can always use more space!

Jean

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When I had a house I built a passive, subterranean, 160-bottle cellar in the bedroom closet. It was quite easy as all I had to do was to cut a hole in the floor and built a plywood box inside the hole and add shelves. Then added a ton of insullation surrounding the box from underneath the house. The temperature never varied far from 55F-65F. (I live in Seattle.)

It soon became obvious that this was not enough so I bought a 400-bottle cellar from LeCache with the armoire window and medium finish. I used this to store my Bordeaux, Penfolds Grange, and the usual cult wines from CA.

It soon became obvious that this was not enough so I converted the third bedroom into a wine cellar and built an 1,100-bottle racking system.

Earlier this year I moved into a condo and there was no way the LeCache cellar was going to make it in the elevator let alone in through the smaller door in the condo. (Do they do this on purpose so all your appliances are small?) :huh:

Anyway, I moved all the good stuff into a wine storage facility where I'm paying about $1.25 a bottle a year for storage at 55F and 70 percent humidity. My cigars are there too.

Drink!

I refuse to spend my life worrying about what I eat. There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward. --John Mortimera

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My recent digs (I change homes every 3-4 years) has a below grade cellar with a converted darkroom serving duty as racked wine storage. I only have about 300 bottles of ageworthy or special bottles (with room for about 500-600 depending on how I build the racks) at a pretty constant temp of 55-65. I also have a small kitchen cooler with about 30 bottles for weekly consumption (mostly sparklers and whites) I have the same cellar setup at my old house (a double that I still own) for stuff I should keep my hands off and long termers.

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Previously I stored my wine in a dark basement corner with slow passive temperature swings between 55 to 65 degrees. Changing to an apartment prompted a temperature controlled cellar made from conversion of a bathroom into this higher purpose. The pasive system served me well, but in a hot apartment there was no choice. The cellar is currently maintained at 58 degrees, but I am considering migrating the temperature down to 55 degrees this fall, at 1 degree per month.

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I'm totally passive but fortunately had the luck to buy a house formerly (in the mid 19th century) run as a business by a local wine merchant who installed a wine cellar, compete with cask bins, in the already extensive cellars formed when they raised the original street level by about 6-8 feet. Year round tends to average 55 degrees with no more than a 5 degree slow swing either way. Slightly moist without being damp it seems to keep wine "forever", every once in a while we drag out "cellar remnants" which ought to be well past their best but are always drinkable and often superb. Oh the joys of living in a temperate climate!

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I was going to start a new thread - but I thought my inquiry would be appropriate in this thread. If I'm wrong - I'd be glad to start a new thread.

My husband likes to drink wine (I don't drink wine except for the occasional bottle of champagne). Not a huge amount - and we've never been collectors. But he drinks enough that I'd like to get him a "wine refrigerator" where he can store some bottles as an anniversary present (it's hard to come up with gift ideas after 33 years!). Probably no more than 50 bottles (extra space wouldn't hurt - except we certainly don't need room for hundreds or thousands of bottles).

We live in Florida - no basement - and no room for a new refrigerator anywhere except in the garage (next to the "garage refrigerator" where we now keep the white wine - except that it gets lost among the cases of water - beer - soda - juice - and the summer watermelons). Note that I do have room in our walk-in pantry - but I was afraid that a refrigerator would throw off a lot of heat and mess up the food in the pantry - we don't even have an AC/heat vent in the pantry because when the heat goes on in the winter - we live in north Florida - it would probably make the pantry too warm. Also note that our cheap garage refrigerator works very well even though the temperature in the garage ranges from highs in the mid-90's in the summer to lows in the 40's during winter cold spells.

He drinks both reds and whites - so I'm looking for a dual temperature model. There seem to be some newer smaller dual temperature units on the market these days.

Has anyone ever used a dual temperature wine cooler? Did you like it - dislike it? Can they maintain temperature in very variable conditions the way our regular refrigerator does? Any recommendations/suggestions would be much appreciated. Robyn

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I'm always interested in those folks with so much money that they hire cellaring companies to store their wine. There are ton of them in business and while I can see the benefit for the wine's sake, it is still hard for me to conceive of having so much money that one would always have a stock of good wine available AND have more of it stored elsewhere for later drinking.

There's an article in this month's Wine Spectator about Emeril Lagasse. He bought a tiny apartment in New York. A wine store close to the apartment had a big sale on some big wines. Lagasse bought the whole lot (22 cases) provided that the wine company would store his wine for him. He picks up the wines at the store when he wants to drink them. So sometimes it's an issue of space - not money.

And you don't have to be rich to have a lot of wine. We have a friend in Miami (not rich) who's been collecting wine since he fought in Europe in WWII. He put together most of his collection in the 40's through the 70's. He moved into a 2 bedroom condo - and turned the huge master bedroom his/hers walk-in closet into a wine cellar. Thousands of bottles. Guess it helps that he's a single fellow - because I think if he had a wife - she might have complained that she had no place to put her clothes :smile: . Robyn

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My low tech passive system involves wrapping each bottle in bubble wrap then filling as many Rubbermaid containers as I need, then throwing a wet face cloth inside.

Every so often, I check to see if the face cloth is dried out, then re-moisten it.

The apartment is always hot but the wine I take from the rubbermaids seems moderately cool most of the year.

Read about this apartment method in the local paper's wine column. A relatively el cheapo low tech storage method IMHO.

L.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Has anyone ever used a dual temperature wine cooler? Did you like it - dislike it? Can they maintain temperature in very variable conditions the way our regular refrigerator does? Any recommendations/suggestions would be much appreciated. Robyn

I'd be interested in any answers to this question.

I don't know what is available in the States but in the UK we can get Liebherr units which vary in size and cost - I'm looking at a 180 bottle unit for about £700. Are there any better value untis?

Gav

"A man tired of London..should move to Essex!"

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I'm always interested in those folks with so much money that they hire cellaring companies to store their wine. There are ton of them in business and while I can see the benefit for the wine's sake, it is still hard for me to conceive of having so much money that one would always have a stock of good wine available AND have more of it stored elsewhere for later drinking.

My local (Oakland) wine storage facility is pretty inexpensive: $14/month for a 20-case space. We don't have a ginormous collection, but we do have a few bottles we want to enjoy a while from now and our apartment was running out of space (and the temperature is variable). Still, we have a decent amount of wine in the facility, and still have a representative sample at home. The idea is that periodically we'll move a bunch of wine back from the facility to the apartment as we drain our wine rack.

For another low-cost solution, Mario Batali (I think) tells people to dig out the old dorm refrigerators they probably have in storage, crank the temperature up all the way, and voila! you've got a wine fridge. I never got one of those little dorm fridges, but they're pretty cheap at Home Depot and other places.

Derrick Schneider

My blog: http://www.obsessionwithfood.com

You have to eat. You might as well enjoy it!

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Robyn,

Are you looking for long-term storage or to keep stuff at serving temperature? 40F in the winter is probably on the cool end of reasonable for cellaring, and almost no wine units include a heater.

Walt

Walt Nissen -- Livermore, CA
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Robyn,

Are you looking for long-term storage or to keep stuff at serving temperature? 40F in the winter is probably on the cool end of reasonable for cellaring, and almost no wine units include a heater.

Walt

Keeping stuff at serving temperature. Since I wrote my message - I spoke with a customer service rep from Haier. He said his company's units simply aren't designed for garage use in our temperature range (their compressors are too small - and they don't have enough insulation). I don't know if he's right - but he sounded pretty honest to me (wasn't trying to sell me something that wouldn't work). So I think we will wind up sticking with what we have now. Robyn

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For another low-cost solution, Mario Batali (I think) tells people to dig out the old dorm refrigerators they probably have in storage, crank the temperature up all the way, and voila! you've got a wine fridge. I never got one of those little dorm fridges, but they're pretty cheap at Home Depot and other places.

Yes, but the additional costs on your electric bill in running one of those old refrigerators can be extremely cost-prohibitive. I had an old fridge in SoCal and chose not to move it NoCal. When we moved into our rental in Napa, there was an old fridge in the garage and the landlord offered to have it removed. I told him to keep it, thinking I would use it like my old one. A phone call to PG&E changed my mind as my bill would have increased over $20.00 a month.

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