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Closet Wine Cellars
by Staff
Magazine Issue: AUS/NZ Issue One
What do you do? You've developed quite a stash of wine, the landlord won't have a bar of digging a big whole under your house, and even if he did buy the threat of war story, you probably couldn't afford it anyway. Short of drinking your prize possessions, here're a few cheaper and more practical options for storing your wine.

What's with having to store wine anyway? For a drink, wine can be a pretty high maintenance one. I mean, leave it in a room where temperatures constantly fluctuate and it'll basically cook itself, store it near constant vibrations and it'll shit itself, too dry the cork'll shrink, too moist it'll get moldy, too bright and it'll burn like an albino in the desert. In brief, wine needs to be stored away from direct light, away from vibrations (even the hum of an air conditioner can be detrimental), and, depending who you ask, somewhere between 12 and 16 degrees. Thing is, storing it properly will help ward of any nasties that arise from these problems. It'll also help some wines become better with age.

Here's some of the more practical cellars to help you protect what you got.

PHOTO: Dave Quick

ALAN NELSON AND HIS STAIRCASE

Alan Nelson runs his own wine wholesaling business called Nelson Wines. Specializing in boutique wines he's developed quite a collection over his 20 years in the business and more recently, one hell of an idea for a cellar.

Explain the set-up.

Alan's cellar is the conversion of what would've been dead space under a new set of stairs added during a recent renovation. By lining the stair well walls with insulation and maintaining the right temperature with an AC unit Alan created a safe home for his wine bottles to have a lie down. Alan chose this method of storage over the more traditional methods as the cost and logistics of going under the house made it a very expensive and time-consuming operation.

How easy was it?

Alan needed a sparky to install the air conditioning unit, the power and a thermostat. The insulation was ordered over the phone and delivered for $150. The air conditioning unit, which needed a visit from a specialist, cost $450 and another $150 to install. Then it was just a weekend of cutting insulation and gluing to the walls with batons for spacing and it was almost there.

What's the damage?

Give or take a few bucks, the total cost to insulate, air condition, install and rack was about $1300. The wine racks, of which he has about 50, each hold 24 bottles of wine and cost $16 each. These are available from Dan Murphy's. The temperature and humidity gauge cost $30 from Dick Smiths.

Why would you?

Because you can. Alan recommends this as an alternative to installing a traditional cellar as anyone can do it, "given the space and a reasonable budget". It's also worth it because you have permanent and easy access (as long as you have the key) and so far there is no additional maintenance. The temperature control unit maintains 14 degrees (the ideal cellaring temperature) with ease.

As for any problems...

"It's too easy to get another bottle when entertaining friends."

TYSON STELZER AND HIS CUPBOARD

Tyson is a 24 year-old math and physics teacher, a wine freak and one of those blokes who lives by the adage, if it ain't broken, try and reinvent it anyway.

Explain the set-up.

To ward off the humidity and high temperatures that permeate the houses of sub-tropical BrisVegas, Tyson built his own climate-controlled cabinet. The cooling system was ripped from an old fridge and the cabinet built from scratch. Through ingenuity, resourcefulness and necessity indeed being the mother of all invention, Tyson made a climate controlled cabinet that holds 500 bottles of plonk and cost a mere $1000.

How easy was it?

It could've been easier if it weren't for Tyson's science background and urge to be so inventive. You see, if you check out his website, http://hammer.prohosting.com/~tstelzer/ Tyson has pretty much built everything from scratch - the control panel on the outside of the cabinet, the insulation from polystyrene off cuts, cooling system from an old fridge, fans for cooling from an old hairdryer, even using a magnifying glass and the sun to burn in the grid system for filing his bottles. How much did it cost to build?

In dollar terms, Tyson spent $1000 on parts, equipment, hardware and fittings and on ongoing cost of just $26 a year. The greatest expense was probably in time. After planning, researching and designing, the whole project took four weeks. For those with limited resources, Tyson reckons the fridge system (see article) is an easier option.

Any problems so far?

Nope. Not a one.

PHOTO: Dave Quick

STOBBS AND HIS CELLAR BOXES

Jonathon wears a suit by day as a sales and marketing manager cum sales rep at Nelson Wines. Due to Jonathon's fairly mobile life to date, his cellar has adapted. Unlike most breakables going through a transitional period, his wine has traveled exceptionally well. So much so that he's now dipping into wines he purchased in, and transported from, England 12 years ago. Here's how.

Explain the set-up.

The current set-up of the cellar (due to the limited space in his house) is the using polystyrene cellar boxes. You can get them for about $70 each from big wine retailers around the country. They hold a dozen in each box or ten larger bottles. More than just wine storage, Jonathon's 14 cellar boxes occupy various jobs around the house including as bedside tables disguised with a table-cloth.

Why this method?

Given the limitations of living in a wooden house on stumps with no storage space inside, Jonathon went with these because they fit into any space and are transportable.

How easy?

It's difficult for him to pin down the most difficult part of the process but Jonathon reckons it lies somewhere between taking them out of the plastic bag and deciding where to put the wines.

Any drawbacks?

The size of the holes in the boxes are measured for standard bottles so a bit of handy work with a bread knife makes it fit magnums and fatter bottles which seem to be the trend now days. The other problem is that there is either not enough money in the cellar fund or not enough room. According to Jonathon, the only solution to the latter is to drink.

Not Convinced? Here're some cheaper options...

Convert an old fridge

Everyone's got one and the rest just plain want them - the retro fridge. Take a trip to your Grandmas garage, dig through the rubbish, past the old FJ and ba-boom, you may just find your next wine storage system. Here's what you need to do according to Tyson who's got one himself.

First, the thermostat needs to be replaced by an electrician and the racking system installed if you didn't want to use the shelves in there. A digital thermometer/hygrometer could be added for $50 and if necessary, humidity could be controlled using a bucket and towel method. With a scrub and a lick of paint, you're in business. All up a very stable cellar for 300-400 bottles for well under $1000.

Stack an Esky

Sure things have changed when you remove the slab of cans from your esky and slide in the bottles of wine, but as a cheap option for those who care for their wine just a bit, they're not bad at all. Costing around ten bucks for a 40 litre polystyrene number, they'll assist in numbing raucous vibrations and providing a bit of insulation and temperature consistency. Keep your post boxes

Similar deal to the esky set-up - these wine postage boxes provide insulation, a bit of protection against rocking vibrations, may ward off some extreme temperature fluctuations and these things stack up a treat. At less than three bucks a pop, they're a bargain as well.

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