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Jul 31, 2006 07:32 PM

My wine "cellar" : too warm?

When I wandered down to the basement to pick out a wine this weekend, it occured to me the basement was a pleasant temp. And pleasant for me means low 70's. Is that too warm?

My basement is a walk-out. I have an enclosed room in the corner that is completely underground...but of course that room walks out into the main basement. It is unheated, uncooled. In the winter it doesn't drop below the hi 50s. It is very dark.

I've been working under the assumption that because this area was a stable, cool (to me) temperature without any swings in temp, that it was good for wine storage. Am I kidding myself?

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  1. hello, is 'low 70s' a guess, or do you have a thermometer down there? Your basic reasoning about stable temp/dark is correct. How long are you cellaring your wines? If you have bordeauxs and ports for the 15-25 year span, 60 is much better than 70. Near termers that'd be great at 6-10yrs at 60F(my own basement is 58-9 and only the cheapest of the dozen 97s of different types I've had recently was noticeably faded) are probably going to break down quicker--have you tasted wines say from '99 or '00 that you've had down there 3-4 years? There is a huge variablity between the wines, and there will be many that your basement (if it truly is stable and under 72F) is compatible for, maybe not for those birth year vintages you give to someone when they turn 21. cheers

    1. I'm not a terribly serious wine drinker. Most bottles get consumed within a year or two. I do have one 2000 Bordeaux that i was thinking about leaving down there for a few more years. I don't think I have the palate to differentiate wine that has been poorly stored vs. wine that was not so good in the first place.

      You're right. I'm guessing. I suppose I could find a thermometer if I tried real hard! thanks.

      1. I'd suggest that you get a mix/max thermometer to montior your storage space. Best to do it now when temperatures are at the highest.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Yes, a min/max thermometer is the best answer. For short/mid-term storage, you should be most concerned with the frequency of the temp fluctuations, than with the actual temp. Long-term storage is ideal at 55°F. For slightly more rapid "aging," a slightly higher temp is perfectly OK. You do not want rapid changes in temp, however.

          For a passive cellar, like you describe, you could possibly benefit from a bit of insulation on the walls, and doors to stabilize the temp as much as is possible. There is a good book, "How and Why to Build a Wine Cellar," by Richard M. Gold, PH. D. (no ISBN #) that covers much of the construction of both an active and a passive wine cellar. It also covers some other interesting aspects of wine storage and consumption.


          1. re: Bill Hunt

            Although I have been too lazy to go find a min/max, trips to the basement early morning and late afternoon have indicated a swing from 65 to 71. I have not caught it over 71, although it has been nasty, nasty (nearing 100) outside.

            What do you think?

            1. re: danna

              If the wine is likely to be consumed within a year, or two, you will possibly actually enjoy the wine a bit more, than if your temp was 55F. This is provitem, that you enjoy wines that are "aged." The big problem is temp swings, their frequency and amplitude. If the temp of wine in the bottle is stable, the slightly higer temp will "speed" the aging process a bit. Now, there are a ton of things that happen, when wine "ages." Only some of these will likely be accelerated by slightly higer temps - same for aeration of wine. It's kind of like aging, but with some chemical differences.

              The idea of a cellar temp of 55F is for long term storage and aging. Some folk, who have wines that will be kept for the very long haul, especially if they hope to sell these at a profit, will keep the temp closer to 45F, to really slow the aging process.

              Again, it's the temp change - how much and how often, rather than the exact temp.


        2. An easy way to keep track of the temperature is to get a digital thermometer with a remote sensing attachment. You stick the attachment in the cellar, and put the readout part anywhere in your house that's convenient. You can keep track at a glance...I got one as a present but it was only about $50, I believe.