Wine Talk

Snooth User: JonDerry

Storage Decision

Posted by JonDerry, Feb 14, 2012.

Tried to slip this into the discussion started by Carlos recently about storing wines in his closet, but think it got lost in the shuffle, here's my own storage situation...would be curious to hear your thoughts.

I'm well beyond capacity for my active storage units (two units, totaling 64 bottle capacity), so I’ve had to experiment with some passive storage.

My condo is not a good place for this, but i've done what I could...storing bottles with cork on their side in boxes near my outside patio window. I've put a thermometer in there to check in on the temp, and it's usually between 70-72 degrees. Over the summer, I believe it got up 2-3 degrees higher at times, but hopefully not much more. I've stored mostly lesser bottles in this situation, and for less than a year.

Fast forward to the present. We took out a storage locker (think storage wars) for our business, and got lucky with the fact that no part of it faces the sun, and this is in San Clemente, CA probably no more than a couple miles from the coast, so temperatures should be pretty well regulated, though it can spike a bit during summer. Even though we've had a pretty warm winter, it gets cold overnight and when I went in to check on it lately, the bottles seem a little colder than ideal cellar temperature, maybe high 40's or low 50's.

So this begs the question, how low is too low in temperature, and what are the consequences?

If temperature fluctuates between 45 - 60+ during winter, and between 55 - 70 over summer would this be safe enough? My feeling is that I can get away with this for another month or two but I should probably just go ahead with a storage locker with the proper temperature and humidity controls, or go for more active with a 100-120 capacity eurocave.

I have some money behind these wines I temporarily have stored passively, and the 12 case storage locker is more than enough for my needs (I probably have 7-8 cases of overflow). The drawback of the Eurocave is that I wouldn’t be able to buy much or any more wine this year, but at least I’d have my collection near and on display. Tough call, the locker is a low risk financially at ~$160/year, but having the wines stored elsewhere and out of my control isn’t ideal either.

What would you do?



Reply by Giacomo Pevere, Feb 14, 2012.

That's my situation. I have most of my wines in a cellar under my grandfather home, 3 meters below more or less, that's a pretty good situation but needs a lot of work to fix it. Lot of old stuffs inside, spider webs and much more. It's temperature is pretty good in winter but a little hotter in summer, there's another little cellar on the opposite side of house and i want to track temperature of both next months to find the right one and then restructure it.

My house is not far from my grandfather so i have at home just some bottles, usually wines i'm not interested to age and wines i have plan to uncork next days. That bottles are outside, under a patio close to home walls in a partly close woodshed, this saves them from the daylight but are too much exposed to hot and cold temperature.

What i want to do? On the other side of my house i have a garage and i can get some space of the garage and some space of the woodshed and build a little room in the middle, this room will never have direct sun exposition and with a simple conditioner i can control temperature and umidity inside.

A conditioner with a umidity control can be an easy solution for your needs Jon if you have a unused room a lumber room or something like that. Onestly i never think about buying a storage unit, i don't know why but i don't fell it like a long time solution.

Reply by GregT, Feb 14, 2012.

So this begs raises the question,how low is too low in temperature and what are the consequences?

Jon - too low is freezing.  And I guess that's not even too low actually, but not recommended.  Heat is the problem, not cold. So if you keep your wine in the 30sF, you just delay the aging.  I know people who keep it very cold with no ill effects at all and it's the best choice.

High temps and swings like you're describing are not good.  45 to the 70s is a big deal and no, it's NOT going to make a difference if the swing is gradual.  The air space will expand and contract with temp differences (so will liquids and solids but you won't be able to detect or even measure those changes at the temps you're talking about).  So that air has to go somewhere.  Part of it is dissolved, and that amount will change with temp changes, and part will find its way into the cork and some will pass out around the cork.  There are some people who think that swings are worse than steady warm temps for that reason - you're replenishing the oxygen every time you cool down and suck air back in around the cork or from the cork itself, rather than establishing some equilibrium.  So whether the swing takes place over a few months or a few days, the result is the same.

And then over the mid 60s, you have accellerated growth of brett and other nasties. 

Some wines can do well at higher temps, some not.  My hunch is that if you have a bunch of "natural" or unfiltered, unfined wines, you'll have more issues than you will with wines that have been stabilized.  I've posted on this before and I've kept wine in the 60s for years, but hitting the 70s isn't recommended.  That said, don't be surprised if some of your wine hit those temps on store shelves, so for whatever it's worth, maybe we worry too much.

In any event, I installed a cooling system in my cellar.  RIght now it's in the low 60s as a passive cellar but in April I turn the cooling back on.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Feb 15, 2012.

My cellar is passive and the house is unheated during the winter so air temps get down to about 47-50F at times. In the summer they rise to 67-70F. Fluid temps vary but stay in a slightly narrower band, about 50-67depending at what height and which wall the bottles are on.

The main issue for me is dryness in the winter, so I added a humidifier, and then a dehumidifier for the summer but otherwise I've seen no ill effects to the wine, just the labels.

I've stored my wine there for 30 years and would be perfectly happy to go another 30.


Reply by JonDerry, Feb 15, 2012.

Great, thanks for the feedback all.

I'm thinking I should explore the idea of getting a cooling unit and maybe even a humidifying unit for that storage unit if at all possible.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 15, 2012.

JD, you don't have a lot of worries about dry weather in San Clemente--when the temp comes up, the fog rolls in, and in the winter it's rainy season.  San Clemente--where I have been a few times within the last year or two--has a farily ideal environment for storing wine. Maybe not as humid as the "ideal" conditions under which Garagiste stores wine. (Not sure whether they benefit of I do--they and I have both paid for it.) I'd skip the humidifier, having lived in coastal Orange County for 4 summers.

San Clemente also has mild summers and winters, so the temp range at the low end should not be a big problem.  As GregT points out, cold seems mostly to slow aging.  I do have a few questions about whether it drops out solids faster or even knocks stuff out of solution, although I doubt that's a huge issue. (I've got a passive cellar that gets colder than yours, I bet, so I have been doing some research)

One thing I think we overlook with the fluctuation, although it's been referred to by GdP, is that the bottle also insulates things a bit, so the temp on the inside is still a little less subject to fluctuation and it happens more gradually. Your Beaucastels are in some pretty thick bottles.  But if you need to make sure they're okay, let me know when you want to open them and I'll taste them for you.

One other tip I have received is to place a blanket over the racks or boxes in which your wine is stored to further insulate against the swings in temperature and cause the changes that come with that, including air volume,  to occur more slowly.

I think the argument about air escaping around the cork and coming back in when the temp drops is an argument for Stelvins, again.  And I think that the compressability of the air in the bottle and it's relatively small volume to begin with suggest that the issue isn't hugely serious.  I have seen a cork forced up in a bottle shipped by a wine club--one more reason to avoid those subscriptions hawked by the NYT or WSJ or whatever. But that probably sat in the back of the slowest truck UPS has for days in 100+ degree heat.  We tasted the wine just for giggles and it was wretched, cooked crap.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 15, 2012.

Oh, and GregT, you say "brett" like it's a bad thing. 

Reply by JonDerry, Feb 16, 2012.

Fox, the San Clemente environ has drastically improved my passive storage potential. And i'm not really sure what the temperature swings are, so i'll have to monitor it if I can. Still can't figure out how or why the downstairs of my place is so hot in temperature, maybe it's just well built so no outside air gets in unless windows are open.

With only about 10 cases of wine total, maybe the best answer is to keep my best 3-5 cases in my active coolers, and keep the rest stored passively, which would cost no additional $.

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