Every new collector is faced with the dilemma of an active or passive wine cellar. An active cellar does not fluctuate in temperature but a passive cellar does. Conventional wisdom is that wine ages best when stored at a constant temperature of 55 degrees. On the other hand some of the great wineries in Europe have used passive underground caves for centuries with no ill effect on their wines.
I’m firmly in the camp of having an active cellar. Shortly after I first started collecting wine over 20 years ago I was transferred to Salt Lake City for a year. I vividly remember seeing wine seep from the capsule of many bottles in my collection on a scorching hot summer day. Those wines have long since been consumed but I learned my lesson.
I invested in a 200 bottle stand up wine cabinet. Several years later I sold this unit for nearly my cost and purchased a 400 bottle cabinet. When we purchased our first house we converted a space in the basement into a walk in wine cellar that held 1200 bottles. Once again I was able to sell my used cabinent for nearly the cost I paid for it.
We are now on our 3rd house and 3rd wine cellar. The current cellar is a converted bedroom in a daylight basement. The cellar is insulated with active temperature control and has racking to hold approximately 2000 bottles.
Living in Seattle I could probably get by with a passive cellar. It never gets too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter. Provenance, though, is absolutely critical if you are going to age great wines for upwards of a decade. I’d rather err on the side of caution and be adequately prepared when we hit extreme temperatures.
If you don’t have space, or a collection that warrants a walk in cellar, then a wine cabinet is the perfect alternative. Cabinets come in sizes ranging from 50-500 bottles. Many cabinets are furniture quality and have great resale value if you need to upgrade. Another option is commercial wine storage. Prices very dramatically but businesses here in Seattle including Seattle Wine Storage and Esquin are great options if you don’t have the space or funds to invest in a cellar.
For this collector it always comes back to having an active cellar. If I’m going to spend the money on great bottles I want to completely ensure that they are properly cellared.
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5 thoughts on “Wine Storage Options”
Insightful post, Tom. I’m in total agreement with you. Active cellar for me. I store my bottles at 55 degrees, 70% humidity. The 55 degree temperature allows my wine to age at a reasonable pace. Moreover, 70% humidity keeps the corks from drying out thereby preventing leakage.
Good post Tom. Yes, I use Wine Fridges (3) to store my wine at a constant 55-58-F. I do plan on building in a section of the garage (we don’t have cellars in Texas) with 6″ walls and insulation and a cooling and humidity controlled unit vented to the outside wall. Hopefully I can get started on this in the spring with an estimated storage of 1000 bottles. In the mean time I am busting at the seams with just 3 wine fridges, and it is limiting my purchases. Keep up the great work my friend!
You make an excellent point about provenance, Tom. Proper storage, whether at a home cellar or offsite facility, is key when establishing values, and will ensure you bottles can age at their best potential.
Thanks. Sorry I neglected to include your facility in my post.
I keep most of my wine in a temp controlled storage unit I rent. I then rotate wine to a home cooler. Not ideal, but the value is good. I fit about 20 cases for about 18$ a month. For that price though my unit is higher up, so I tend not to go very often. The place is also about 20 miles away. One day I’ll build something. Just no room now.