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I am for sure a newbie compared to the forumites posting here. I have recently outgrown my wine cooler storage space and have decided to empty a storage space below the stairs leading to my finished basement. I just bought a set of wooden racks and a hygrometer and my idea is to gradually develop this space into a nice cellar. I just can't justify spending thousands of dollars at once. I am however worried that after two days in the empty space my hygrometer is showing 68F and 70% humidity; bingo on the humidity but the temp worries me. I live just outside DC and therefore experience the temp swings between summer and winter. I don't buy first growths or anything close to that and in fact i avoid spending over $125 dollars on a single bottle. I have never kept a bottle for more than 5 years and i expect that to continue as my disposable income won't rise enough to be able to afford wines to age for decades. I do like to buy and keep for a bit (5 years max)wines that improve with age; Napa cabs, Ch du papes, brunellos, barolos but again nothing more than $125.

Should i worry about my cellar conditions and try to invest $1500 or so on a cooler for the space? What would you do if you were in my shoes? If i am keeping a few dozens of 5 year ageable wines, is it even worth it?
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DC is essentially a swamp isn't it? I'd imagine you'd almost always have plenty of humidity but the few times I've been there in the spring and summer it's been horrifically hot. Why don't you just buy a cheap small AC unit for the space? Go to Home Depot and pay $99 for some inexpensive AC unit, drop it as low as it can go, and you're happy.

Unless you change your drinking strategy. I'm decreasingly inclined to keep CdPs for any great time as I've never had one that was better with time than it was to start with, depending on the Cabs you're keeping, the same thing applies - i.e. a handful absolutely need age, most don't really reward it. Barolos generally need a lot more than 5 years. So keep those and drink the others when they're young and juicy.

And BTW, that space under the stairs is useless. In about two months you'll be wondering where to put a larger storage system.
Originally posted by Javachip:
What kind of temperature range are we talking about in that location? Is there any type of heat source nearby -- furnace, water heater, clothes dryer, etc...? If the temperature in that spot stays below 70F most of the year and never goes above 78F, then I think you're fine.

Thanks. No heat source and no vibration. Its actually quite a nice spot kind of isolated. I just came back into the house and it was in the low 90s today. The temperature was 70.5. My feeling is that it might get to 72 on a 100 degree day and as low as 65 on a winter day. Looks i may be fine as per your advice. Thx again.
Originally posted by GregT:
DC is essentially a swamp isn't it? I'd imagine you'd almost always have plenty of humidity but the few times I've been there in the spring and summer it's been horrifically hot. Why don't you just buy a cheap small AC unit for the space? Go to Home Depot and pay $99 for some inexpensive AC unit, drop it as low as it can go, and you're Happy. [QUOTE]

Thanks GregT. Swampt it is indeed and we can have a 5 to 10day stretch into the 100s. I will look for that cheap ac option but i probably need some electrical work at least so unless its simple work i might stick to what i have now. Regarding, space, i thinki can fit 500 or so which means i have a long way to go. My dream eventually is to have nice sliding tempered glass doors with the racking system against the wall and be able to admire it from the hall. Lets see maybe for my 40th.
Take a look at the units in the store. Pull off the grille that you'd remove to change filters. Near the top by the temp setting is a little wire, maybe 8 inches long or so. Should be copper but isn't always. Anyhow, that's what reads the temp. On some ACs you can drop the temp as low as 60 or 61. That would be great. But if you pull that little wire thru the grill so it's not hugging the intake fins, you can sometimes drop the temp another degree or so.

If you figure the smallest AC you're going to buy is good for a room somewhere around 3000 sq feet, it's definitely large enough for your space. You can get a Samsung or something for around $100 and they're pretty light weight too.
Do you really find them markedly better? Many just seem so good out of the chute. I kind of stopped picking them up after 2001 but still have a few bottles each of Vieux Télégraphe, Rayas and Mount Olivet from the 1990s, some 99 Usseglio Mon Aieul and some Cailloux Cuvee Centenaire from 2000, and some Donjon, which is one of the few that I still pick up from time to time.

Don't have Beaucastel although I wish I did.

Anyhow, do you guys really prefer them older? When I've kept them longer or had them with real age, I've liked them but can't remember thinking that they were necessarily better. Some do seem to hold on remarkably well however, far better than most wines - at 20 years Rayas from a good year still tastes like a young wine.
The 1996? vieux telegraphe was very well integrated compared to the 07 vieux telegraphe which was good but very tannic.

I hold them because I don't necessarily enjoy tannins especially if we're drinking 1+ bottles each over dinner.

btw greg, are you seriosu about the windowed 99$ ac unit, because I was really seriously considering jsut that. It's more BTUs, less power draw, more efficent and 1/10th the price then the "wine fridges"
Originally posted by GregT:
Do you really find them markedly better? Many just seem so good out of the chute.

I think a lot of CdPs are very "approachable" and fruit-forward right from the chute (and enjoyable) but that does not necessarily equate to being in their "optimal" drinking window. I also find that the wines usually suffer by going into an austere stage a few years after release and hence the comparison between the two stages won't do it justice.
I'll hold off on some and see what happens. It does seem that at a some period less than 15 years, like around 8, the fruit drops out.

g-man - as far as the AC unit, yes. All cooling units work pretty much the same - you have a condenser and an evaporator coil and a fan. As you remember from high school, when something is in a gas state, the molecules are flying around at high speeds. At colder and colder temps, they slow down until you hit absolute zero when motion stops.

So you compress a gas. The molecules can't exhibit the kinetic energy they want to, so you get heat. You need to dissipate that heat somewhere and a fridge or AC unit do it outside of the container they're cooling. That's why you have those fins on the back of the AC unit or your fridge.

Now you have a cool, low pressure liquid or gas. You pass that into a larger tube where it suddenly expands. As it does, it sucks energy (heat) out of the surroundings. You blow air over that tube and cool whatever you're cooling. So you're transferring the heat from the inside of the cooled space to the outside where it dissipates into the air.

A wine cooler or a fridge or the AC unit in your car work exactly the same way. The differences are in the relative sizes of the various components. It's easier to cool something 20 degrees F down from where it is than it is to cool it 50 degrees down. That's why your fridge is sealed so tightly but your car AC isn't - on a 90 degree day you're cooling down to maybe 70, whereas in your fridge you're cooling down to the 30s.

If your evaporator coil is too small for the amount of heat transfer you're attempting, it will ice up. But since any room AC unit you buy is sized to cool spaces way larger than most cellars, even if you push the unit past its normal range, it's not going to be too stressed. You'll blow off the Energy Star rating, but so what.

Wine coolers and ACs aren't designed to drop the temp 50 degrees or more, which is why you usually don't vent wine coolers out an exterior window. Their thermostats are willing to operate the units in the 50s and if you get 96 degree days, they're overtaxed. OTOH, a typical AC assumes a comfort zone in the 60s, so they're not sized to go farther down and they're happy to cool from the 80s to the 60s.

If you oversize the AC for the space, you get bad energy ratings but significantly more cooling power. There are guys who use regular large window ACs for meat lockers. You get an old trailer, put in a huge Fridgidaire or Kenmore, and you saved yourself a few grand that you would have spent to buy a ready-built meat locker. Meantime you're cooling way below the normal temp range for the AC. Like down to the 30s instead of the 60s.

The other thing is, most AC units tend to act also as dehydrators. It's why Con Ed says to match the cooler to the room - if it cycles on and off to much, it won't dehydrate. But for a wine cellar, that's what you want. I'm sitting in front of the AC unit right now and it's on 60 degrees. That's pretty good IMO. Some people like their wine a lot cooler - that's fine but I haven't had any problems for many years. And I also have a couple wine fridges just because I didn't have the space to build earlier.

You can get the AC unit to do extreme cooling like the meat guys want by several methods. Easiest is to tape a resistor to the probe and trick it into thinking it's a few degrees warmer than it is. Alternatively, you can just replace or bypass the thermostat. Just go to the hardware store or Home Depot, buy a different thermostat, and hook it up. If you're afraid to connect a few wires, there's a commercial product called Coolbot or something like that which will do the same thing and which is designed specifically to make an AC cool a meat locker, but you're wasting money.

Either way, it's a proven method and you can spend $100 every year and still come out ahead after 12 years vs buying something like Whisperkool.

If you want a better illustration, I think this link does a pretty good job of explaining things. Working AC unit

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