Save my wine!
June 25, 2006 5:27 AM   Subscribe

What is the best way to store wine long term if I don't have a cellar? I'm particularly worried about the Australian summer coming in six months or so.

At the moment I have four dozen or so bottles in my wardrobe. I open it every day, and there's next to no insulation in there. I'm pretty sure it's a bad place to keep good wine. Most of the bottles are nice but nothing super premium, but there are a few that I want to keep for ten years or more, and one muscat that should get better and better for 20-30 years.

What should I do with them? Buying a $200 wine fridge thing is out of the question. I want to find the best way of keeping them in a normal house sort of situation. I don't have a cellar. I've been reading about heat damage and it's starting to scare me. All help is appreciated!

PS- anyone in South Australia: go to Kabminye vineyard in the Barossa, and buy a bottle of Gold. It's the muscat I'm talking about. I guarantee it will be the single greatest thing you will ever taste.
posted by twirlypen to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Perhaps you could use a perpetual motion machine to power a heat pump...

Seriously, you are up against the laws of thermodynamics and chemistry, and there isn't much you can do to change them. You could use a thermometer in each of the candidate storage locations to select the coolest one.

About the only other thing you could do is rebottle the wines in airtight screw top containers with no air in the bottle to reduce oxidation.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:12 AM on June 25, 2006

You have a few options:
A. Pony up the dough for a wine fridge. You can get a 12 bottle cooler for under $100 in the U.S.
B. Find a place that offers wine storage. Sometimes the rates are really reasonable (e.g. I pay one dollar per bottle per year).
C. Put them in your ordinary fridge. This isn't ideal for reds, but it beats leaving them exposed to temperatures above 70F.
posted by chrisgrau at 6:38 AM on June 25, 2006

As it's more temperature changes that cause wine problems than any given temperature (as long as we're talking ambient in the rate 40-65F, maybe 6-18C) I'd suggest you find an appropriate place to lay them down and then insulate to moderate daily / weekly changes.

If you're serious about building up a collection of wine you seem to have a couple of options. The first and easiest is a commerical storage facility. For a modest annual charge they'll store your bottles in temperature and humidty controlled conditions. An "off site" storage facility for wine, this isn't a bad idea except for the on-going costs.

Another option is building your own wine cellar. If this is a long-term interest of yours, you should probably look at it carefully even if this isn't possible in the near term, as it's not as outrageous as you might think at first glance.

While renovating an existing closet is always a choice, I've been looking into an underground construction that a couple of my friends here in London have had installed, the spiral cellar, which is essentially a concrete tube that's buried in the ground.

The earth around the structure helps to maintain a constant temperature. Access is via a trap door. Typcially these are sunk into a garage but I'm looking to have one put into a ground floor closet. They run 10K Sterling or less with no annual fees, and are an option if you're serious about your wine and short on space.

The one I've priced out will hold maybe 1,500 bottles, and allow me take to advantage of sales that I run across.
posted by Mutant at 6:38 AM on June 25, 2006

As an alternative suggestion to the commercial wine storage facilities, how about finding a kind soul who does have a cellar?
posted by ClarissaWAM at 6:43 AM on June 25, 2006

I'd put the best ones in the bottom ("vegetable") compartment of your fridge; chrisgrau says that isn't ideal for reds, but I stored my best Bordeaux and Burgundies there for several years and they were fine when I finally drank them. The most important thing is not exposing them to heat.

The non-best ones should be drunk; they won't last for years anyway.
posted by languagehat at 7:43 AM on June 25, 2006

re: reds in the fridge -- people will debate over whether there can be bad long term effects from such storage. I've read people say that the wines go "dumb" but I haven't encountered that. What I have encountered is that some wines (especially strong extracted Aussies) will throw quite a bit of sediment if left in the fridge -- much more than they would otherwise.

re: a spiral cellar, while that sounds very cool, why on earth would you think that is an option for someone who doesn't want to spend $300, let alone thousands of dollars?! (or did you just want to brag?)
posted by chrisgrau at 8:10 AM on June 25, 2006

If you're planning on aging wine in the decades, what's $200, Especially considering the cost of the investment you are protecting? Maybe it's a non-answer, but I did break down and buy a wine fridge and have found it to be a great investment.
posted by absalom at 10:00 AM on June 25, 2006

Look on eBay - there are bargains to be had
posted by Lanark at 11:08 AM on June 25, 2006

If you're planning on aging wine in the decades, what's $200, Especially considering the cost of the investment you are protecting?

Exactly. If you have 4 dozen bottles worth aging, you already put way more than $200 into them -- and if you didn't, then you don't have 4 dozen bottles worth aging. You have to ask yourself, what exactly do you hope to achieve by aging cheap wine in substandard conditions? Not all wine improves after 5 years in the cellar, you know. Drink it up or get serious about selecting and storing it.

That said, all may not be lost, if your goal is to taste good wine rather than making an investment. The San Francisco Chronicle (heart of American wine country, dontcha know) just ran a thing last week about how improved winemaking processes are producing wines that are better younger -- long story short, wines historically had to be really high in acid and tannins in order to ship without spoiling, and then they had to age for a long time to let those huge, astringent flavors mellow. Well, the shipping is no longer an issue, so some wines are now going into the bottle more mellow and closer to ready-to-drink. Low-tannin wines may not even age well, in fact: they may just get flat after 5-10 years, the jury's still out in most cases.

Furthermore, when you DO age wines, the speed of maturation depends on the temperature. Basically, if you keep them a shade too warm it just makes them age faster (of course if you overdo it, they'll spoil). If you're cycling up to 70-ish F, then you should open the bottles in less than 5 years. If you're able to maintain 50-60F conditions, then 10+ is probably feasible. So that's an alternate plan if you really can't control the temperature -- but you will just have highly drinkable wines in the medium term rather than highly valuable wines in the long term.
posted by rkent at 12:21 PM on June 25, 2006

The jury may be out but I dont think those cheapo 100 dollar wine fridges are any good for serious aging...
posted by stratastar at 8:07 PM on June 25, 2006

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