Julie Harrison - Starting A Wine Cellar

Publish Date
Friday, 22 January 2016, 9:53AM
By Julie Harrison

With any luck you might have been given few bottles of very nice wine this Christmas.  So do you drink them now or save them for later?  Maybe it is a good time to start a wine cellar?  The reality is that over 90% of the wine produced in the world is designed to be consumed when you buy it, so how do you choose wines to put away for later?

The first thing when deciding to start a wine cellar is to work out why you are doing it.  Are you looking to store the wine as an investment or are you interested in actually drinking it in the future?  If you are looking at wine for investment then there are strategic wines to be buying from New Zealand and around the world.  Examples would be Te Mata Coleraine,  Stonyridge Larose, Penfolds Grange, Henschke Hill of Grace along with top Bordeaux and Burgundy wines.  Once you have chosen what you would like to cellar try to buy from the best vintages as these are more likely to age well and increase in value compared to wine made in poorer years.

If the wine cellar contents are for your personal enjoyment then there is a bit more freedom.  It is still a good idea to have some “investment wines” in your cellar as they have stood the aging “test of time”. A bad wine is never going to improve with age so you need to buy quality wine.   Wines need good acidity, good fruit concentration and, for reds, strong tannin structure in order to age well.   Chardonnay, Semillon and Riesling are potential candidates for cellaring when it comes to whites and for reds look for the Bordeaux varieties; Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc as well as Pinot Noir and Syrah.  Some wines need aging a good example being the Italian Nebbiolo grape used for Barolo and Barbaresco.  High quality sweet wines like Sauternes may also benefit from time in the bottle.  Take advice from your local wine retailer or your favourite winery about which wines and vintages they recommend.

It may be expensive but if you are serious about a cellar then buying wines in quantity is the only way to go.  Buying a dozen bottles of the wine you want to cellar will enable you to try the wine over time and, hopefully still have some left when you feel it is drinking at its best.  If you are cellaring wine it is important that you keep the wines in the best environment possible.  Unfortunately we don’t all have underground temperature and humidity controlled wine cellars so what is it you should realistically be aiming for? Temperature is very important it comes to cellaring wine.  Ideally it is low and constant so the hot garage is out.   The ideal wine storage temperature is 12 to 13 degrees C but if you can’t quite manage this remember it is temperature variation that is the worst enemy.  Rapid changes in temperature can cause the cork to expand and contract letting in air and resulting in oxidation, so choose the coolest, darkest room available with the most constant temperature.   Ideally moderate to high humidity is the best as it stops the cork drying out.  If you have the budget then Wine storage fridges are great for storing your best wines at perfect temperature. 

A cellar should never be static.  Wine should be going out and coming in on a regular basis.  It is important to know what is in the cellar and you can keep track of your wines using various software programmes or by keeping a manual wine log.  It is there to be enjoyed but make sure you have a strict use and replace policy!

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