Most wine lovers feel that a wine cellar is an extravagance and are convinced they have no idea of how to establish one or effectively use it.
In reality, a cellar helps save money, offers adequate depth and selection for planned and unexpected events and reflects the tastes of the person maintaining it. In other words, don’t worry, be happy and vow to start your cellar this week!
There are certain storage conditions necessary to maintain your wine’s condition. Fortunately, any house, condo or apartment has conditions very close to these ideal requirements.
First is a stable temperature range between 55 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (this can slowly fluctuate over a long period, such as the change of seasons. Cooler temperatures will cause the wine to age too slowly, warmer will damage the wine by heat). Second is the exclusion of light (light causes fluctuations in temperature, pressure on corks and damage to the wine by its presence alone).
If your cellar contains natural cork-finished bottles, 60-70% humidity will prevent the cork from losing its seal at the open end of the bottle. Laying the bottles horizontally will prevent this from happening from the inside of the bottle (plastic corks and screw capped bottles can be stored upright. A lack of vibration or disturbing movement will enable the wine to mature gently, and an odor free environment will prevent any chance of transferring off characters to the wine.
Under these conditions quality wines will improve with time. Just remember that 90% of wines are made to drink within one year of release. Discuss potential aging selections with your retailer, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Like any hobby, you can spend as much or as little on your cellar’s appearance and inventory as you wish. I personally prefer to keep my wines under excellent storage conditions and put the majority of my discretionary income into better bottles!
If you have a basement, look for a cool, clean, dry and dark corner, wall it off and add insulation. If you don’t have a basement, seek out a closet away from the outside wall of the building (outside walls experience the most temperature fluctuations). Just keep in mind the above criteria and you can safely store your wine for years.
Saving money is the main reason for establishing a cellar. The dedicated space you set aside allows purchasing wines you like in quantity, when they are on sale. Case purchases in Ohio may be discounted 10% by the retailer, and a cellar enables you to take advantage of these discounts. It also allows special bottles to be purchased when they are at their least expensive, on their first release.
Purchase for your tastes and for those who you entertain. I enjoy full-bodied reds, so they are my cellar’s emphasis. I also have some Riesling for guests who like sweeter whites, sparkling wines for any occasion, some nice bottles of Chardonnay for special meals and dessert wines for the family’s love of chocolate. Think about what types of wines you really enjoy, and what you might want to have on hand for special friends and family and purchase accordingly.
A variety of wine types, styles and price ranges will give you great flexibility in your beverage entertaining choices. Having adequate inventory will prevent last minute trips to the store when friends drop over, you will have saved money on purchases and can offer more mature wines at any time.
Then you may bask in the enjoyment of having a collection of personally selected bottles to share with friends.
Gary Twining, C.W.E., S.W.E. is a certified wine educator and employee of Cutting Edge Selections, a wine wholesaler. The distributor of each wine he reviews appears in parenthesis. E-mail him at winingwithTwining@hotmail.com.