Why start a cellar?
One simple fact: mature wine is more expensive than immature wine, sometimes dramatically so. Starting a cellar is often the only way people can afford to drink mature wine; by investing in younger wines and storing them yourself, you’ll drink
better wines in the future for less money.
Which wines are suitable for laying down?
The majority of wines produced today are made to be drunk immediately. Only good-quality wine made to mature in bottle is suitable for laying down, where its tannins soften, fruit develops and balance changes over time. The period of time depends on the wine in question and can be anything from several months to many years. In each case, it’s a finite period, after which a wine no longer improves, but reaches a plateau of maturity. Eventually, it will slowly decline in quality.
Choosing wines for your cellar
For the simple sake of variety, you’ll need to have a range of wines from different years. It’s also the case that different vintages age at different rates, which will safeguard against the entire contents of your cellar becoming ready to drink at the same time. Wines from different grapes and different parts of the world also mature at different rates. My advice would be to have a cross-section of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Nebbiolo for ageing. But I’d suggest that your cellar should also include wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhône, Alsace and Champagne. Buy what you like to drink, otherwise there’s no point.
How and where to store wine?
Only ever store your wine at home or with the wine merchant you bought it from. Whichever you choose, it’s important to keep it in the original wooden case if you want to resell it in the future. If you’re keeping wine at home, you need to make sure it’s stored on its side to stop the cork drying out, away from damp and, ideally, the temperature should remain steady with little fluctuation around 15˚C.
Dusting off a bottle
This is the best bit. The wine you’ve nurtured for months or years is ready to drink and you have just the right occasion to do it justice. It’s virtually impossible to get the timing absolutely right and this uncertainty should be seen as part of the fun of wine. Trial and error is the only answer, not least because the true state of a wine’s maturity is a matter of personal taste. As somebody once said: ‘That’s why the Good Lord decided to put 12 bottles in a case.’
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