Wine Talk

Snooth User: AdamJefferson

Cellar Climate Control

Posted by AdamJefferson, Apr 8, 2010.

I'm looking at some cellar upgrades and want some input on a couple of things.  My general understanding is that ideal conditions are 55 degrees F and humidity of 60-65%.

1.  Do certain wines benefit from having a different storage temperature?  If so, which ones and what is considered ideal?

2.  How low can the humidity get before impacting the cork (I use my cellar for storage of other things besides wine, and nothing else I own benefits from such high humidity)?

Thank you.

 

Replies

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Reply by dmcker, Apr 8, 2010.

1) That temperature and humidity range is just fine for both reds and whites. If that's what you've got, it'll work fine for any wine.

2) Hard to tell about just how long it takes before low humidity takes its toll on the corks. I wouldn't lay anything I cared about down for more than a year or so without being sure the humidity was in reasonable range, though a little bit of seasonal variation isn't something I'd be too worried about within each year. This is a subject that has generated a bit of controversy, and there's a gentleman in Oregon who thinks you never have to worry about humidity in private cellars. I say balderdash to that and have seen what longterm low humidity can wreak in Southern California (or too much use of airconditioning with no humidity control elsewhere, too). You do have a little bit of leeway to work with on the humidity issue as opposed to massive temperature swings, though.

 

Are you talking about a passive, oldskool underground cellar, or something in a box with an aircon unit?

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Reply by AdamJefferson, Apr 8, 2010.

I've got a passive cellar, cut limestone walls, brick paver floor, two sides exposed above grade, that may get a little warmer in the summer than 55 degrees.  I'm studying our temperature fluctuations now.  I've installed a de-humidifier to actually dry the air out a bit, and it ran for quite some time before it got down to 65% so for the time at least I've got the correct humidity.  How high above 55 would you feel safe in going, and how far below?  Thanks for the advice.     

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Reply by dmcker, Apr 8, 2010.

Are you in particularly damp ground? Above 75 for lengthy periods of time and you'll be dealing with issues of label mildew and rot before too long.

I've always had to deal with the opposite, whether summer & autumn in Southern California, or winter in Japan, where humidity stays too low for too long. As much as possible I have just spilled libations of wine remainders to Bacchus or any other wine god onto the bricks in the floor when humidity gets too low. They soak it up and release the moisture over time, and I love the hardcore oldskool aromas of the yeasts, etc. in the wines... ;-)

In the other direction, if the door to the cellar is periodically opened and the room upstairs is getting airconditioned during the damp spring and summer in Japan, for example, then the humidity can be kept low enough without direct intervention in the cellar itself. But the surrounding ground is on a bluff well up high above any groundwater levels.

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Reply by dmcker, Apr 8, 2010.

Just to be clear, the cellars I have dealt with have all had at least 5 of the walls below ground level. Do either of your two walls above grade get direct sunlight?

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Reply by AdamJefferson, Apr 8, 2010.

Both walls get direct sunlight, though both are very thick, and the AC unit is in the basement, with lots of the duct-work exposed, so the air should stay fairly cool in the summer.

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Reply by dmcker, Apr 8, 2010.

As another clarification, my comments are made from a context where I want to be able to store wines for 20, 30, 40 or even more years, as long as they're up to it. I'm not talking about storage for, say, 5 to 15 years. If that's what you're aiming at, then approaches can be considerably more relaxed.

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Reply by AdamJefferson, Apr 9, 2010.

Oh that my health and finances in 40 years will permit me to dwell on such things.  I think my horizon is more likely in the latter range.  Checked this morning and I'm at 63 F and 65% humidity; dark and quiet.

Next question, what about artificial light; how much concern?

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Reply by zufrieden, Apr 10, 2010.

Once you get an idea of the seasonal fluctuations, you'll be in a better situation when it comes time to evaluate the effect of your cellar on your age-worthy wines.

Of course, where I am, humidity is only a problem in the summer (a bit lower than you might guess) when we get periods of 4-8 weeks without rain.  Temperatures in the cellar range throughout the year between 14 and 17 degrees Celsius ( 57 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit) - unless we have a heatwave where outside temperatures exceed 32 degrees (90).

If the temperatures rise above 21 degrees, you will not necessarily damage the wine, only age it more quickly.  How quickly the wine responds to the heat will depend on the wine itself, of course.

I'm a bit of a minimalist in terms of my own cellar - there are a few other things in there at the moment and I have not re-modeled the decor to suit the rest of the house, but perhaps that is the next project.

Cellaring is a great topic - open to posts of photographs, so thanks for this.

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Reply by dmcker, Apr 10, 2010.

You can definitely damage the wine pretty immediately if it rises beyond a certain temperature. What that temperature is is subject to some debate, but in general you don't want to store your wine in places, even temporarily, where the temperature will rise much above 80F. I also am in the camp that thinks too-low temperatures can damage wine. I wouldn't want to store it at temperatures below 40 or even 45F for long. Although if anyone wants to give me a bottle from the Titanic to check, I'll be happy to participate in the experiment... ;-)

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Reply by penguinoid, Apr 12, 2010.

You'd like some wine from off the Titanic? I'll go get my SCUBA gear.

;-)

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Reply by penguinoid, Apr 12, 2010.

(Uh, not that I *have* SCUBA gear -- I seem to be the only person ever to have tried SCUBA diving and not liked it).

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Reply by dmcker, Apr 12, 2010.

So what was the problem with it, Penguinoid? One of my personal loves, so am curious what the dislike might stem from.

Don't think SCUBA would be the choice to get you to the Titanic, anyway...

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Reply by penguinoid, Apr 12, 2010.

A couple of things, not least the cold water where I was, and I was having trouble clearing my ears. I only did the part of the course that was in a swimming pool, though, I'd have probably enjoyed it more if I'd decided to put up with it enough to do the part that involved diving in the ocean.

I almost did, but that brings me to what was probably the thing that really put me off - a bad scuba diving teacher. I was really put off when he started enthusiastically talking about how we'd be able to dive with sharks. In a region known for having sharks that attack people. No, thanks.

I was lucky during my high school (secondary school) years that I had gymn teachers who were intelligent, nice people -- I ended up liking them, despite hating sports lessons. I think I got a taste of all the really bad sports teachers I missed out on here, sadly...

Anyway, you're correct, SCUBA diving isn't really the best option (thought that it is such a bad option is where what little humour value that there is comes from). More seriously, I need to charter one of these - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bathyscaphe

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Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Apr 12, 2010.

Scuba can be so peaceful, and neutral boyancy is about as close as I expect to get to spacewalking, totally a blast.

 

AS to cellar conditions.

 

I am lucky in that I was able to buy wines that I know were pristing back in the early 1980s.

 

they've been kept in my passive cellar ever since.

 

Winter temps get down to about 53 degrees, summer temps as high as 67, even over 70 airtemps at head height, but fluid temps never get above about 65.

 

Being passive, and I being lazy, it's a humid cellar. End results can look like this

 

But they taste like this

1979 Caymus Pinot Noir

1979 Burgess Pinot Noir

 

Ok, so the burgess wasn't very good, but at least it was well preserved.

 

Point being, my conditions are pretty good for wine, not good for labels, and a bit out of what is considered to be "ideal" conditions. Yet my wines are just fine, thank you very much.

 

 

 

 

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Reply by beliefteam, Apr 12, 2010.

For Scuba, I take sudifed.  That helps my ears clear.  As to my wine cabinet, I keep it at 59-60 Deg.  Humidity stays really good at 50%.  I tried keeping it at 55 deg.  but the motor burns out much faster.  So, 59 to 60 deg. and it seems to stay happy.

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Reply by zufrieden, Apr 12, 2010.

Greg, those pictures of vintage 1970's Napa are worthy indeed and are not so far off what I have seen come from modest cellars elsewhere.

Nice pictures.  As to scuba, I'll leave that to another time.

;-)

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Reply by dmcker, Apr 12, 2010.

In Japan, humidity is even worse across a broader portion of the geography than perhaps even Long Island. 10 months ago I went through a detective process with a few friends and acquaintances where we tried to determine just what ausleses, beerneausleses and trockenbeerenausles were amongst approx. 50 bottles worth of green and brown bottles from the '60s, '70s and early '80s from Germany, with labels rotted out far worse than yours, Greg. Art nouveau meets darkly colored abstract art via an attack of the spores from hell.

Utterly delectable nectar, though, fit for Olympus, or Valhalla if they sipped rather than guzzled with Thor and the Valkyries. Got to be too much of a good thing on a couple of days, and we never did figure out what certain of the bottles were, though we got maybe 3/4 of them through spotty purchase records, inspection of labels worthy of CSI (or CIA) photo analysis, and mostly tasting memory from specific plots and producers in the Mosel and Rhein.

Bottom line is humidity won't hurt the taste of the wine, about which I'm in total agreement with Greg. But depending on who you want to show the bottles to (and share with), if you ever might want to sell a bottle or two, and in the worst case if you want to be able to be sure of what you're drinking, keep the humidity down.

Good timeslice of Cali pinot noir for that day, Greg. Too bad you didn't lay down any Chalone from that year... ;-)

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Reply by penguinoid, Apr 12, 2010.

A cellar of some sort is something I'd really like to have. Maybe if/when I get my own house, I'll look out for one that has a decent cellar that could be used for storing wine. Then I'd just need to figure out how to afford a few bottles of top quality Burgundy and Bordeaux to store away in it ;-)

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Reply by redbird45, Apr 14, 2010.

hello

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Reply by redbird45, Apr 14, 2010.

The enemies of wine are heat, light, vibration, improper humidity levels and odor. If you have a wine cellar in your home, you should be all set. But if you are storing in a cool place that is dark and odor and vibration free in the basement then you should be all set as well. Keep the wine in a temp that is 55-65 degrees and around 60-65% RH.


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