How can I start storing wine when I don't know where I'll live in a decade?
October 19, 2011 1:15 PM   Subscribe

How can I start keeping a wine cellar when I expect to move often?

Over the last several years, I have gotten rather into this whole wine thing. There are plenty of good bottles out there to drink now, but I am also interested in starting to collect wines that will age well from producers I like. Unfortunately, I am also an academic and expect to move around quite a bit over the next decade. Right now I live in Switzerland (very convenient for seeding a collection to my taste), next year I will move back to the US for another postdoc around DC, and after that I have no idea, but would prefer to wind up on the west coast or in Europe. Is there any good strategy to safeguard a modest quantity of wine through this much locational uncertainty without costing an arm and a leg, or is this a fool's errand?
posted by Schismatic to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I've just kept mine in a cool dry place (like a closet) and its been fine. I think its nice to have a cellar but its not necessary.

Failing that if you want a storage mechanism with more rigor. There are actually 3rd party storage places which specialize in wine storage Like so, you could rent one of these either in a neutral place or near where you live and transport the wine with you.
posted by bitdamaged at 1:21 PM on October 19, 2011


I've been getting pretty heavily into wine myself recently and am also somewhat likely to move about some in the next few years. How many bottles are you talking? Getting a wine cabinet (versus a wine cooler or building a cellar) could be helpful, but the real challenge here is moving the wine of course.

You'll want to avoid temperature fluctuation and excessive vibration/shaking which is really hard to do when you're moving such significant distances. Larger/national moving chains some times have refrigerated options for moving just his sort of thing but that may well be more money than you want to spend unless you're talking about a LOT of wine and some really spendy wine on top of that.

I'd recommend a third party cellaring solution in the location you hope to end up in ten years time and/or in your retirement which is also willing to ship your wine should you REALLY want some (or all) of it before you return to the locale.

Aside from all of that you may want to look into any requirements for transporting that much alcohol across borders or even state lines.
posted by FlamingBore at 1:55 PM on October 19, 2011


Use a third party off-site. In the US at least anything beyond open warehousing (i.e. lockers) isn't really cost effective until your collection is quite large. If you are cellaring things to maturity it doesn't really matter how close it is to you, because you won't be transporting things out of storage often. Find a well known wine storage place (check out the wine fora out there for advice) and use that. While you are in CH use one there, when you are in the US use one here. Once you settle on a place permanently there are people out there who will handle the shipping.

Note - taxes will end up being a shitshow, and will erase a lot of the price advantage of Yurp vs the US. The other thought is that if you think you are going to be Europe long-term post the trip back to the US is to keep building your collection over there and have the bottles sent straight to your storage by your favored merchants.
posted by JPD at 2:19 PM on October 19, 2011


I wish I knew vaguely where I will live long-term, but at this point I don't have the slightest clue. The US is most likely what with citizenship and all, but I can't imagine just yet how to get a job any specific place I'd actually like to live. And it never even occurred to me that a state would care what I bring into it from another state so long as its legal, so that is good to consider.

JDP: Any suggestions for wine forums that would have good info? I've not followed US wine sites much at all, since I enjoy different wines than people seem to like there.

Ultimately, it sounds like it might be a giant pain in the ass for something like two or three cases per year. I'm getting jealous of my English friends who use third party storage in London and can have pretty much the whole country be adjacent.
posted by Schismatic at 2:41 PM on October 19, 2011


JDP: Any suggestions for wine forums that would have good info? I've not followed US wine sites much at all, since I enjoy different wines than people seem to like there.



What do you like to drink? There are plenty of americans who aren't Parker-esque in their tastes.

(and yes for 2-3 cases a year there is no way it is worth the hassle - you can bring a case at a time into the US w/o too much hassle btw)
posted by JPD at 2:46 PM on October 19, 2011


There's no reason you can't buy wine in the UK and have it stored in a bonded warehouse until maturity. By the time the wine is ready to drink you'll have the whole where-to-live thing figured out and can have the wine shipped to you, or if you're in the US just bring a case or two back with you each time you travel to Europe. For short term drinking when you move to DC, bring what you want to drink with you and ship the rest of your collection to off-site storage.
posted by foodgeek at 3:11 PM on October 19, 2011


Much better off buying it in Conti Europe than the UK though. The UK isn't actually that much cheaper than the US to buy wine. Certainly storage in the US will be cheaper and if you end up in the US customs and shipping is dealt with. A third country doesn't help the situation.

Its bringing the wine into the US that is the biggest hassle. Our liquor laws are just crazy when it comes to importing.
posted by JPD at 3:59 PM on October 19, 2011


I have a logistical suggestion if you plan on keeping the wine with you. Keep the boxes.

I had to pack my aunt & uncle's wine cellar for their last move (they magically both threw out their backs, huh) and the only thing that made it quick and easy was the fact that my uncle had kept all the flattened cases in the garage. I'm fairly certain you can buy the wine boxes too but those aren't cheap either.

(It was 47 cases in the "cellar" - it was actually just a closet build out - not counting the full cases still in the garage and all the liquor)
posted by magnetsphere at 4:17 PM on October 19, 2011


Its bringing the wine into the US that is the biggest hassle. Our liquor laws are just crazy when it comes to importing.

It depends where you live. In California it's super easy to have a company like Aventures in Wine import your wine for you. I don't think it's all that expensive either...
posted by foodgeek at 6:33 PM on October 19, 2011


Adventures in Wine is very expensive. If this thread is to be believed its $150-$400/case depending on how many stops it makes (cheapest is grower straight to you, if it has to go from grower to a warehouse its closer to $400). Someone else in that thread got a third party quote of $100/cash from a shipping broker - presumably in a refrigerated container.
posted by JPD at 6:49 PM on October 19, 2011


That post you linked to lists $25/case for Adventures to handle the importing, another $25-$35 for DHL to provide some unknown service, plus the cost of shipping... I've never used them, or anyone else for that matter, since I always just bring whatever I buy back home with me and declare it at customs.
posted by foodgeek at 7:57 PM on October 19, 2011


For most people, the only reason to keep a cellar with you when moving internationally is to get bottles that you can't acquire in good condition at your destination. My absolute favorite wines are German rieslings, but if I were moving to Germany I would get rid of them and import my California wines instead. Maybe within the EU you could hang onto a cellar, but otherwise I think the shipping and duties would kill you. Someone I know on the Interwebs (and who also runs a good wine board) did his own importing but used a third-party shipper for a little over three cases. You can read his post, but essentially it took hours, the shipping alone was $9 a bottle, and it wasn't worth it.

However, if you're only talking 2-3 cases, not a whole, literal cellar's worth, I bet you can swing it yourself on the airplane. Do what I did, tape two 12-bottle styrofoam shippers together to make a single parcel, and leave out a couple bottles to hit whatever weight limit you're under. I've found that a strain-gauge scale (less than $20) is necessary to get accurate weights. It's even possible to fashion a makeshift handle out of packing tape, to make it easier to carry. Then, check the boxes. You'll have to sign a release that says they aren't responsible for breakage, but it's by far the easiest, and surprisingly the cheapest way. Just be careful that you're not flying some crap airline like U.S. Airways, because they tend to connect in South Carolina which has no allowance for transit. At least when we were on our honeymoon, South Carolina limited you to a gallon per person (if only you were a Scotch collector...) with no provision for being in transit. Furthermore, any excess wasn't taxed, it was destroyed! Contrast this to California, which, at least 10 years ago, allowed something like 5 cases per person and unlimited amounts in transit.

Also, be sure to bring records showing that it's for personal consumption. This is key. Things like proof that you're moving to a different country, purchase and consumption records. Probably your collection is eclectic enough that it's clear you're not trying to sneak commercial quantities past them, but it can't hurt to be prepared.
posted by wnissen at 8:17 PM on October 19, 2011


The US Airways hub is in Charlotte, NORTH Carolina.
posted by leaper at 3:21 AM on October 20, 2011


That post you linked to lists $25/case for Adventures to handle the importing, another $25-$35 for DHL to provide some unknown service, plus the cost of shipping... I've never used them, or anyone else for that matter, since I always just bring whatever I buy back home with me and declare it at customs.


Yes - and add it all up its $150/case or 12.50 a bottle. Adventures only charges you $25/case sure, but you still have the attendent costs of using a third party shipper. The point stands - it is an expensive solution. The airplane option is your best bet for 2 cases at a time max. Beyond that you'll need to figure something else out.

Also if OP plans of putting wine in the bottom of the plane on a regular basis there are hardsided cases with wheels that hold a case of wine in foam padding. They are pretty expensive, but over time might be worth it.
posted by JPD at 6:10 AM on October 20, 2011


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