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Greetings,

I'm new to this site, and to wine in general, and after reading a number of threads about wine storage I have a question:

Is it possible to store wine successfully WITHOUT spending enormous sums of money? The usual advice is to go with a Eurocave, but since their smaller units start at £999 they're far beyond my means. I'm a graduate student, saving money by boarding with my folks until I finish my degree. I have access to a basement in a temperate climate (Pennsylvania). Will a rack in the basement be sufficient? Or should I invest in some sort of cooler? If so, is there a good cooler which isn't as painfully expensive as Eurocave?

I don't have a collection of wines yet, but I would like to begin purchasing some nicer ones to save. I won't be able to afford wines costing hundreds of dollars per bottle; for those I'll wait until I can build a proper cellar or buy a Eurocave. I'm looking for medium-term storage, probably two or three years here, unless there's an inexpensive and semi-portable solution that will carry over to wherever I wind up next.

Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
Original Post
The first thing to do is get a thermometer that tracks highs and lows temperatures. That'll give you an idea whether the basement is cool enough and steady enough to store wine. As long as it hovers close to 55 degrees +/- 5 degrees you're OK.

Is the basement completely under ground? If the answer is yes and you're in Pennsylvania then passive storage will likely work.

Assuming all of the above checks out OK then you can simply store the wine in wine boxes on the ground or on cheap shelving that has end caps and lay the bottles on the shelves. Functionality is the key, not aesthetics.
The house is on a slope, so that while most of the basement is underground, the back wall is exposed. It stays fairly cool, but I don't think it's as low as 55 degrees in summer.

I'm open to purchasing a cooler, if it's possible to get a good one for a reasonably low price. I could probably stretch the budget to $200.00. I'm sure I could find something in that price range, but I have no idea yet how to judge which brands and models would serve well, and which would let me down.
KDL, you need to wall off and insulate a portion of the cellar wall(s) that is (are) underground. If you seal it off well and insulate well, it should stay cool enough year round. Two inch thick styrofoam is fairly cheap and insulates very well. You can use panelling for the walls over a frame of studs. Instead of racking you can use steel shelving as bins, but be sure to cross-brace it. This needn't be expensive but can be very functional.
quote:
Originally posted by KDL:
The rest of the basement gets up to (I think) 70 degrees in the heat of summer. Will the insulation be sufficient? If so, that's a lifesaver, or rather a wallet-saver. Thanks! Smile


That's very iffy. I seriously doubt you can insulate well enough in one corner to keep it at 55-60 degrees while the rest of the room is at 70 but you might be lucky. If you're willing to chance the $200.00 I'd say build it as stated, stick the hi/lo thermometer in there and keep an eye on it. At worst you'll have yourself an nicely insulated closet.
quote:
Originally posted by wineismylife:
I seriously doubt you can insulate well enough in one corner to keep it at 55-60 degrees while the rest of the room is at 70 but you might be lucky.


You can, provided the subterranean temperature is in the mid 50s or below. You leave the wine cellar uninsulated to the subterranean walls and floor, then insulate the rest of the wine cellar thoroughly.
Well... what would be the minimum for a good cooling unit? Is there something worth buying between styrofoam and the thousand-pound Eurocave? I'd rather spend slightly more than I can readily afford, and slow the rate of collecting the wine to make up for it, than waste money on an insulated closet and some cooked vinegar. Smile

As an alternative, Best Buy sells a number of Danby wine refrigerators for $150 - $300. Are these a complete waste of time and money?

Pondering my budget, I think I could spend as much as $500, if it were for a wine cellar which would last for years, and which I could take with me when I complete my degree and move. Not my first choice, but if it's the only way to move beyond $10.00 wines I'd rather wreck the budget now than wait five years and hope I'll be in a better situation then.
It's really simple. Build it as stipulated. One change though. Search online for a cooling unit (I personally use and recommend Breezaire) that you might need to install afterwards. When you're building your insulated walls leave a hole cut in one wall for the proper dimensions. Frame, fill and insulate that hole. If it gets too hot during the summer you can always come back and knock out that cutaway section and place a cooling unit in there at that time (presumably at a time when you'll have a little more money to buy the unit).
That's a good solution, but seeing the prices on these cooling units, it won't be possible for me. If I spend $1,000.00 on a cooling unit, I won't be able to buy any wine until next year.

The other problem is that any cooling unit I buy for this sort of makeshift wine cellar would be a short-term investment. Once I leave here, I'm unlikely to have a basement in which to build a cellar. First-year non-tenure assistant associate professors don't usually get salaries that allow for basements. Smile

So it's either portable or cheap, or both.

Oh, and I've just thought of another problem: Do these coolers ever leak? Or are they safe for carpeted floors?

Also, since I haven't yet said so, thank you all for the advice. I really appreciate the assistance.
quote:
Originally posted by Gigond Ass:
quote:
Originally posted by PontetCanet:
I just posted a separate discussion about this. See "Whynter SNO 28 Bottles Wine Cooler WC-28S". It's a thermoelectric, 28 bottle cooler for $200 delivered.
28 bottles is an offline, not a cellar......


LMAO! True. I've seen one person provide almost 4 times that at one offline! Eek
I think I may have found the solution: the ChillR Cooling Unit. While it's a bit more money than I'd like to spend, it won't quite break the bank, and it's certainly portable. I can wait and purchase one if the insulated mini-cellar in the basement needs it, and I'm sure I could use it wherever I wind up next, by turning a closet into a cellar if no basement is available.

Thanks for the advice! I never would have thought of the cellar-within-a-cellar idea. Smile
Something else to consider: Get yourself a unit like an Avanti or Whynter, load up your wines in the basement, and plug the thing in only during the hot months. You'll prolong the life of the cooler, and let nature take over for the eight cool months each year.

Also, if you do decide to go with a cooler, put a little bowl of water in there (it'll eat up one wine slot) to keep the humidity up a bit, as drying can be a problem I understand. I'm wanting to move into a new place with a good basement, or pop for a Eurocave, as I've rapidly outgrown the tiny 28 bottle fridge I got a month ago (sigh).

Good luck!
I'd like to bump this thread to add a question regarding humidiy.

The wine room in my basement is the appropriate temperature, but humidity appears to be an issue. The first gauge I bought registers a fluctuation from 24 to 94% humidity, the second shows it hovering around 25%. (I think I need better gauges.) Is there a cheap and efficient way to keep the humidity where it needs to be? I have a nice DEhumidifier that can be set to a certain % humidity, I have yet to find a humidifier that can do the same.

Part of my problem may be that the basement window isn't sealed properly; you can feel cold air rushing in.

Any tips for this newbie?
For short term storage, an old refrigerator works great. See cellar on a budget You need to get a temp/humidity monitor from RadioShack. This will let you know when you have tweeked the thermostat on the fridge to the correct temp, and when you need to add a small bowl of water to the fridge for humidity. I set one up this way and got 55 ± 2°. After 5yrs I found a deal on a storage unit, but the fridge is around for backup. This will probably start a thread about the importance of vibration...Important, maybe Roll Eyes over 10-20yrs you probably don't want to give your sediment a massage every 20 minutes Smile , but temp control is by far the most critical factor!
Thanks for your reply! Big Grin I will definately buy a better monitor at Radio Shack.

Temperature isn't a huge concern, it's more the humidity. So a bowl of water will help that? I'm not going to be storing and aging any wines for the long term. The most expensive bottle I have right now is probably a 30$ Riesling.

Thanks again for your help!
I found a site that sells a wine-stat to use in a used fridge/freezer or A/C unit.
http://www.winestat.com/
Has anyone used this product? I also place an ad for a used fridge to use in our garage as we have no basement,crawl space and have in-floor heat. We had been storing wine in a vertical rack in the garage which is kept at 55 degrees over winter but needed to move the wine each spring.

It seems like "treeman" found a way to make this work. Is there still a vibration issue?
We have a freestanding wine fridge in the kitchen (a Danby, I think) for 50 bottles or so. We've had several issues with it which are probably related to the cheapness of the product: 1) if the power goes out it resets to the lowest temp (much too low for reds) 2) really variable humidity and exterior condensation and 3) serious vibration.

My understanding is that these smaller units were not meant for long-term storage. We only keep things in them for a few weeks or months as we drink them. I have no experience with the larger units, but I can't recommend the small units for anything but convenient ready-to-drink stuff.
quote:
Originally posted by Djehuty:
I think I may have found the solution: the ChillR Cooling Unit. While it's a bit more money than I'd like to spend, it won't quite break the bank, and it's certainly portable. I can wait and purchase one if the insulated mini-cellar in the basement needs it, and I'm sure I could use it wherever I wind up next, by turning a closet into a cellar if no basement is available.

Thanks for the advice! I never would have thought of the cellar-within-a-cellar idea. Smile

Does anyone have any info on this unit?? I have accumulated about 100 bottle in a closet in which I insulated & vapor barrier temps range from 55/58 degrees in the winter to 70/75 max in the summer months, and the variations are gradual. Now I'm considering a cooling unit and a better door, as what I currently have is a hollow core bifold Confused Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.
Thanks Doug, do you run that system year round? The reason I ask is fall through spring temps remain fairly stable. I was wondering if you can simple unplug/turn off that unit etc. and maybe this might add some longevity to the cooling unit. My current racking system can go upto 120 bottles and I'm thinking about atleast doubling that. anyway that 2500hzd may fit my budget and the dimensions are fine.
quote:
Originally posted by napaccoast:
Thanks Doug, do you run that system year round? The reason I ask is fall through spring temps remain fairly stable. I was wondering if you can simple unplug/turn off that unit etc. and maybe this might add some longevity to the cooling unit. My current racking system can go upto 120 bottles and I'm thinking about atleast doubling that. anyway that 2500hzd may fit my budget and the dimensions are fine.
I do run it year round, even though we're only 500 yards from the ocean and it stays pretty cool here most of the year. But the high was over 70 today, despite being quite cool in the evenings (lows in high 40s). I just figure it doesn't work as hard in the winter and spring as it does in the summer and fall, when the daytime highs can reach the 90s and the evenings stay well above 60.

In any case, I have about 500 bottles down there with an average purchase price of over $30, and current values of probably double that or more, and I'm more concerned about the wine than the possibility of having to replace the cooling unit a couple of years earlier than I might otherwise.

I also have to wonder if leaving it off for extended periods might be bad for it. I keep a fan in the workroom that's adjacent to the cellar -- I run it all the time to blow the hot exhaust from the cooling unit out the window (the exhaust blows into the workroom, which is nice In the winter). The first year we were here I turned the fan off during the winter, and it wouldn't restart when the weather heated up the next spring -- it had locked up from not being used, even though it was less than a year old. A little WD40 and some elbow grease got it going again, and I've left it on since without any problems. Something to consider.
Last edited by rdcollins
I just checked the temp. where I store my wines and its 58 degrees, 65% humidity. I live an hour west of chicago, kinda balmy right now at 32 degrees outside, its usually colder this time year! Anyway you bring up a good point about wine value vs cooling unit value. My current ambient conditions I feel are acceptable its just the temp swings hot and humid in the summer months. I'm at a point now were I have a few cases of wines that are age worthy and I'm concerned about that 70-75 degree summer temp. range. Initially I thought I'd be able to maintain a passive cellar with these conditions but now I'm leaning towards a cooling unit. The vast majority of my wines may be considered QPR's and weekend wines, better than your everyday drinkers but not age worthy. Anyway the room is set just need a somewhat reliable/cost effective cooling unit.

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