Retail Wine Storage Question

There are at least two large retail chains in my area that have locked cabinets with some nice wines; Older Penfold’s Grange vintages as an example. These are national chains with stores coast to coast in the States. The cabinets look like they are hardly, if ever, opened. The wines are generally standing upright, and are from vintages of 6 or more years ago. Periodically, these chains run specials like: “All wines 30% off; 40% if you buy six or more”. My questions to all; Have you had any experience with wines that have been stored this way? What do you think the risks are that the quality of the bottle will have been impacted? And lastly; How difficult do you think it will be for me if I actually try and buy a $200 wine for 40% off, and for the stores to find the key to the cabinet if I actually want to purchase something? Appreciate any experiences you may have.

If the “cabinet” isn’t temperature-controlled, you’re paying for the label, not the wine.

Temperature controlled store, no direct sun, probably never varies +/- 5 degrees from around 70 F.

At those temps, more than a year or two in the store, and I would not buy it!

What is their return policy like?
Might be worth the gamble for short term consumption IF they take back bad bottles.

I don’t get it either . . . some stores around here - large, supposedly reputable stores in Orange County and Los Angeles have many great wines yet no temperature controlled cabinets to put them in. I see first growths, second growths, top Sauternes, great champagnes, just sitting on the shelves, upright . . . and I then I ask the store manager and he says “we don’t know the temperature, probably no more than 72 degrees, but certainly nowhere near cellar temperature.” I find that odd though . . . no? Having great wines yet not seeming to care how you store them? Stores like the Wine House has two rooms in the back where is it temp controlled - and I appreciate that effort. Anyways, just wanted to put that out there.

buy one older bottle and open it. Make a decision about the others after that.

Agreed, most wine retailers in Los Angeles don’t keep their store at a freezing 55F. I don’t see the problem of it being 65-70F for a few years, not going to destroy the wine.

65-70F is not a typical ambient temperature in any retail environment I’ve ever seen that is not deliberately cooled for wine. 72-76F are more natural room temperature ranges and I would not store any of my wine at those temperatures.

Man, the only place I’ve seen in the OC/LA that is ever cold is Hi-Times. No other store am I even remotely chilly. I can’t believe their temperature is anything below 65. Next time I’m doing a study just for you Keith. I’m going to standin the middle of a few stores with a digital thermometer.

Agree with Mr. Fu here. . . the only place that has an actual cellar is Hi-Time in Costa Mesa and Wine House in LA (both have a reading of 57-58 degrees). Most stores, including K&L, Wine Exchange and Wallys are all basically around 70 . . . but I’ve purchased stuff from there and they have been fine. My earlier point was, if I were going to spend $300+ on a first or second growth, I’d like to think they would invest in at least a cabinet to store the “more expensive” wines.

Thanks for the return policy suggestion. That would be a great safeguard if I try this experiment. I am in the Pacific Northwest, so other than about 3 weeks a year the store actually has to warm it’s interior to the 70’s.

I appreciate the opinions expressed here (I really do!) but has anyone actually had any experience with a purchase like this or with storage of fine wine under these conditions? What happened when you took the plunge and bought the wine?

My problem with buying wine from display cabinets is that they often have flourescent light bulbs in them. Even if it is 70 degrees in the store, how hot is it in a closed cabinet two inches from a light bulb? Not to mention that UV light theoretically damages wine.

I remember seeing a QUintarelli in a cabinet under these conidtions at a Bevmo. I wonder how long a $300 bottle wine sits in your average bevmo in those conditions.

Room temperature is fine if you’re talking about wines that turn over within a few months. That’s not what the original poster’s question was about. Obviously I’m aware most wine shops do not keep their inventory at cellar temperature (though I certainly go out of my way to patronize the ones that do).

It’s hard to find good stores with climate controllednrooms and cabinets anymore. But, how many of you have picked up daily drinkers from wine shops? Were they in climate controlled cabinets? Is there a chance that these were on the shelves for a few years?

Though I can see what you are getting at with expensive wines, sometimes we forget that wine may be just a little tougher than we give it credit for. God only knows what the temps were like going from the winery, to the distributor, to the warehouse, to your wine shop, etc, etc.

One of the most memorable wines We have had was a 1983 Chateau Lafite Rothschild. Not a great vintage in the least, but saw this bottle about 4 years ago in a wine shop down Route 130 in NJ? The owner said it had been there for over 20 years buried in the bottom of a locked, not climate controlled cabinet, and he had found it about a year prior and put it out. I offered him $150 for it and he said I could take it for $175 and did. Needless to say, it was a great wine, and very memorable. But maybe it was a fluke…

I have a 200 bottle rack in my kitchen that houses my daily drinkers. Sometimes they are they for a day, other times they are there for 5 years plus. Not ideal, but again, never had a problem…but I also wouldn’t store my first growths here.

How did they store wine way back during the Jefferson administration before there were climate controlled cellars? -mJ