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Wine has to be kept in stable, cool conditions to let it develop a better taste, aroma and bouquet over time. Poor storage conditions and changes in conditions and can ruin a good bottle - or destroy your valuable wine collection. This advice applies to other wines, like sherry, port, dessert wines, fortified wines and so on, but less so to spirits like whiskey and rum.
Light, heat, and humidity are the main culprits in making wine taste like vinegar.
Storage is important for quality wines. Those that are bought to be kept - most wines are made now for quick consumption (the supermarket approach) - should be cared for, at least a bit - and it is not expensive or difficult to do so.
Wine collecting is a hobby - like collecting stamps or model railways - and appeals to a similar age group and sex - middle aged men, white, semi-affluent. The exceptions to this rule - female wine tasters etc - are usually involved professionally.
Some collectors have even installed model railways running around their wine cellars - particularly popular are alpine railways, with lights on the trains and models of men blowing alpine horns (alphorn or alpenhorn - a type of labrophone). These can be wired up to a realistic sound system to give the full effect. This provides a convivial place to do some relaxed wine tasting, a good excuse to put on an anorak.
It is obvious this is a far more appropriate and all round better additional use of the wine cellar than installing a home gym.
Although we know of one wine collector who became ill, and had to give up the sauce, and take up exercise for the first time since he was running around in short trousers. He turned his pleasure lair into a dungeon of punishment!
A normal wine cellar is heavily insulated and uses a lot of power to keep the wine at the correct temperature and humidity.
A passive wine cooling system will do a similar job but for free - as it uses natural methods, so is more green too!
A basement can be used, it must be tanked, dried out, finished with insulation and plastering etc. Lighting and air conditioning might be needed; although we are advising on passive here so make sure there is some ventilation or damp will build up. Light might be provided by solar tubes, glass skylights (to the front of the building) and also powered lights.
We will provide a full specification in a subsequent article.
Wine racks and wine cabinets have to be installed, get some nice wooden ones so you get a good vibe from the experience. Unless your home is more modern.
Small collections of wine - or rather, just storage for a few bottles - can use a wine cooler refrigerator. This holds up to 12 or more bottles, but is not large scale. Larger refrigerators are available, and can be installed in ranks if you need more storage. This can save the expense and bother of building a proper wine cellar.
Passive wine cellars have to be in a cool and slightly humid or damp area. They must have low seasonal and daily temperature and humidity variation. Gravel can be used for flooring, and can be sprinkled with water if the house id dry.
A good place is the basement in a house. Or even under the stairs, with a bit of adaptation.
Passive wine cellars cost nothing to operate, once you have built them, with racks or shelves, doors, basic insulation. They are not made useless by power cuts or shortages.
Incidentally, the vibration of a normal fridge is bad for wine and also beer, although most beer is a fizzy pop-like drink so no-one notices.
Also do not take a bottle in and out of the fridge, or to and from the table, unless it is to be drunk, as rapid changes in temperature will cause chemical reactions and spoil the taste.