Too Much Wine Too Little Time

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 I was going to say if, let me correct that and say when you develop a passion for wine. You will eventually look to storage of wines you wish to collect. This may strike you as expensive or out of the question for space reasons. Guess what, it may surprise you to know with a little ingenuity and monitoring you can have a nice cellar.
First let’s give you a definition:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
 A Wine cellar is a storage room for wine in bottles or barrels, or more rarely in carboys, amphorae or plastic containers. Wine cellars are usually located completely underground, and often have direct contact to the surrounding soil via a gap in the foundations.
Wine cellars offer the opportunity to protect alcoholic beverages from potentially harmful external influences, providing darkness and a constant temperature. Wine is a natural, perishable food product. Left exposed to heat, light, vibration or fluctuations in temperature and humidity, all types of wine, including red, white, sparkling, and fortified, can spoil. When properly stored, wines not only maintain their quality but many actually improve in aroma, flavor, and complexity as they mature.
Wine can be stored satisfactorily between 45 and 65F, provided any variations are very gradual. Temperature centered around 55 degrees Fahrenheit or 13 degrees Celsius, much like the cool caves used to store wine in France, is ideal for both short-term storage and long-term aging for all types of wines. Note that wine generally matures differently and more slowly at the lower temperatures than it does at the higher temperatures.
Residential wine cellars are significantly different than a wine cave or other type of underground wine storage facility. A residential wine cellar involves a multi-step build-out process to insure that the collection of wine remains preserved over long periods of time. The construction of a wine cellar involves answering many questions about what type of wine cellar is desired in the home. Some of the questions to ask your self are what types of wine bottles will the wine cellar hold and how many? What is the purpose of the wine cellar, entertaining or secure storage of a collection? Start with these types of general questions and this will help your contractor or wine cellar design/build firm design a wine cellar plan that is exactly what you want.
Some elements to think about in the preliminary stages of building your wine cellar are wine cellar doors, wine racks, wine cellar accent pieces, flooring, lighting and wine cooling systems.
Residential wine cellars can be either active or passively cooled. Actively cooled wine cellars are highly insulated and need to be properly constructed. These types of wine cellars utilize specific wine cellar conditioning and cooling systems to maintain the desired temperature and humidity. Many systems only control the temperature and not the humidity so it is important to look for a system that actively controls both with temperature and humidification integrated into the unit. Passively cooled wine cellars take advantage of naturally cool and damp areas (such as basements with uninsulated outside walls in cool/temperate climates) when minor seasonal and diurnal temperature variations can be tolerated. Passive wine cellars may be less predictable, but cost nothing to operate and aren’t affected by power outages.

There are some key points to remember here. Temperature, humidity, light and vibration in that order are arguably the most important facters in storing wines.
Lets discuss them:

Temperature to begin with, must be constant. It can range from 45-65 degrees, yet ideal temperature is around 55-56 degrees.
Now let me go off for a minute. There is a vast difference in opinions out there today about storage. Most will agree that American wines for the most part are made to drink now or store for 1-2 years. Most white wines simply do not store for long periods, where as most full bodied reds will store for a longer time. Most quality wines will improve with age. You have to do your research.
The key is for wine to mature to its best potential. Wine will generally take longer, yet mature better at the lower temps (55-56 degrees). You can store at temps several degrees higher or even lower. Lower temps will slow down the aging process, you will wait longer for the wine to peak and may change the complexion of the wine. On the other hand higher temps will speed up the process. In some cases that may be desirable, yet once again the complexity may change and not be at its best. Most experts do not recommend speeding up or slowing down the process. So the point here is keep temps constant and preferably in the 55-56 degree range. Place a thermometer in your cellar area and monitor it for variation. Up and down changes in temps will expand and contract the wine allowing air past the cork, resulting in oxidation which ruins the wine.

Humidity at a range of 65-75 percent is ideal. Cellaring wine in the basement of your home has benefits in that most are somewhat damp. Humidity keeps the cork from drying out, which again will allow air into the bottle causing oxidation. Also always store wine on its side. This way the cork remains in contact with the wine, stays wet, keeps its shape and remains sealed. Racking on the side also allows you to see the cork for signs of wine seepage, that indicates the cork is losing it’s seal. Too much humidity is not good either. It can cause mold which can damage labels and the cork. If your humidity in the cellar area is too high a dehumidifier should be used.

Light is a problem, storing wine in total darkness is ideal. Ultraviolet light can damage the wine. This is why most wine is bottled in dark green or colored glass. If you use light in your cellar use bulbs with a lower wattage.

Vibration, wine should not be disturbed as it matures. Vibration agitates the wine and natural sediments that collect. You should not handle wine after it has been laid down unless you are going to drink it.

So there you have the basics of cellaring. A cellar can be any size depending on your space and budget. There are small wine coolers available that can fit in relatively small areas, an inexpensive start. A basement with the correct conditions, some extra space and a little money is the next option. Or you can go all out and build walk in rooms with racking systems, tasting tables, tiled floors, stained glass etc. It just takes money. There are also available premade rooms that you can put together in sections with self contained refrigeration systems and racks. Everything you need to have a cellar. They come in different sizes with options like glass doors, lighting, and locks. We have one that holds 980 bottles. We purchased ours from the Wine Enthusiast online store. We actually visited their store in Elmsford New York to see a floor model first. One thing to remember with self contained refrigeration units, they tend to dry up humidity in the cellar. So it has to be monitored, if it gets too low you can buy a small humidifier or just put a container of water inside your room.
If your ready to jump into cellaring, do your research well, you will love the results. There is nothing like a well matured wine. We try to buy most of our wines for cellaring by the case. You can try a bottle young and at different intervals to see how it is maturing. The only down side is when you get to that last bottle maybe five years down the road, the wine is at its peak and is fantastic. You then realize there is no more. Oh well…. on to the next one.

When you get that cellar up and running, what better way to keep track of your wine than a software that does it all?
The Personal Wine Curator 2.0 is just what you need.

Key Features of PWC v2.0
View your cellar at a glance and track maturity of wines Over 7,500 food and wine pairing suggestions Create custom dinner and wine tasting menus Print ID labels and tags


  • Aging potentials for almost any wine from any major growing region
  • Comprehensive lists of producers, varietals, regions and grapes
  • Import pictures of wine labels
  • Custom sort your cellar any way you like
  • Instant internet searches for wine info
  • Print custom reports
  • PC and Mac compatible
  • I personally recommend it, and suggest you go to thier site and download the free demo. Happy Cellaring.