Wine Cellars 101: Sommeliers Provide Tips of the Trade for Building & Stocking Your Personal Win
What’s that you say? You are thinking about building and stocking a wine cellar? I am going to tell you right now, that is a smart move.
Even if you have only a slight curiosity for wine, that realization of how much a bottle elevates your meals and memoirs, starting a cellar now will start to reap indescribable benefits in five year and further insurmountable experiences in ten, fifteen and 20 years. That slight urge to begin will become the light bulb moment you revel in years from today. I say it often, although some may be hearing it here for the first time, a proper bottle of wine can turn a regular evening into a memorable experience.
The kicker however is – you must be a conscientious buyer. That first decisive principle is beyond my ability to convince to you via this keyboard underneath my fingers. Getting to that point involves finding a retail establishment wholly focused on wine. Sure, there is a possibility that your local grocery store has an unbelievably vast range of selections, but vast doesn’t mean smart. A dedicated wine retailer, whether it be online or a brick and mortar shop, will be an important partner in populating your cellar with classic, age-worthy wines from producers with history and credentials. Start by chatting with your close friends that have opened memorable bottles for you, ask them where they buy from, take a list of your favorites to a shop and buy a mixed case of similar producers. You can’t just rely on scores because different critics have different tastes. You need to be the critic for your wine cellar. You have to taste the wines to know the wines.
It doesn’t matter if you are buying casual drinking Dolcettos for Tuesday pizza night, Provence rosé for outdoor summertime meals, or the most sought-after cellar gems from Europe à la Clos Rougeard Saumur, Vatan Sancerre, Lafarge Volnay, Coche Dury, or Raveneau Chablis and the young domestic producers worthy of your attention like Ceritas, Arnot Roberts, Tyler, Sandhi, Failla, Cameron, and Rhys. Having knowledgeable wine guidance is important and allows you to understand the reasons for buying Mascarello, Cascina Fontana, or G.D. Vajra Dolcetto instead of others. Factors in your value wine buying should include key phrases like “generations of family ownership,” “organic farming,” “hand harvested,” “low yields,” “indigenous yeast fermentation,” and case production in the low 1000s or less, not 10,000 or more.
Second point, and you won’t ever hear a retailer say this, but it is important to not over buy. Stick with me here. If you are planning to build a large beautiful cellar for long-term aging by converting a room in your home with the goal of compiling 5,000 selections or more, you shouldn’t buy more than six bottles of any given wine. Conversely, if you are thinking about buying a couple Eurocave cellar units to plug into your basement creating a smaller cellar with a maximum space of perhaps 600 bottles, you shouldn’t buy more than three bottles of any given wine. We all enjoy variety when it comes to wines. If you buy too much of each wine you will fill up the cellar too quickly.
Your palate will change as you acquire bottles from different regions, taste new varieties, attend events, and even travel across the globe. You will want to manage your cellar space so that in three years you still have empty rack slots to fill. Further, three years from now, of the wines populating your collection, you’ll want to make sure there are very few you don’t have any desire to open or share with friends. When buying slim, you drink through the wines you enjoy yet still have room to continue exploring as your tastes change. It’s an important guideline. I have worked for over ten years in cellars, buying and selling wine for clients. Throughout that time, the most common reasons for a client looking to sell off wine from a collection is not death, divorce, or increased market value. The two reasons a collector sells—their cellar is overflowing with too much wine (overbuying), lack of interest or changing tastes in regard to the excess bottles they bought years ago. We have all heard the quote, “Life is too short to drink bad wine.” It is also too short to drink wines from your collection that you are no longer excited about. Finally, proper storage is important. Don’t think bottles will survive in your closet, in the kitchen pantry rack, or in a regular basement. One or two years might not hamper those bottles, but if you are going for the long haul, five years of storage and more, you need a consistent temperature control of about 55 degrees and 70% humidity. One of the most amazing wines I ever had was in late 2010, tasting bottles from a meticulous cellar in Marin County, California. The white wines were kept in a separate bunker at 50 degrees! It was an important decision the collector made. We opened a 1969 Mayacamas Chardonnay. It was a glorious bright yellow color with layers and textures I had never experienced in a California Chardonnay. My oh my…I’ll never forget my amazement when he poured that wine and we pulled away from the glass after the first taste. If you are a savvy buyer and store your bottles fittingly, that could be you someday.
When people think of wine cellars and wine storage, they have traditionally pictured a dark underground space styled similar to a European vineyard with heavy wooden shelving housing the multitude of bottles hidden within. After all, the name itself – “wine cellar” – evokes the idea that wine must be kept, at the very least, in someone’s basement. Although there is certainly nothing wrong with this approach to wine storage, today’s wine enthusiasts are eager to take advantage of the many more contemporary wine storage options available.
Wine storage trends have changed dramatically over the last decade from where they once were. With the advancements in temperature control cooling units, it is now possible to safely store your wine above ground in any variety of spaces. From closets and dining areas to hallways and great rooms, today’s architects and designers are making room for the inclusion of wine storage spaces as an integral part of the mainstream luxury living market. Just imagine creating a custom wine display as the central design element in your home, room or condo that beautifully displays the unique wine collection you’ve spent years developing! Not only does it allow you to showcase your wine collection to guests and retrieve desired vintages with ease, it also adds value and interest to your living space by ensuring that your wine collection is being properly cooled and aged to perfection. By breaking with traditional wine storage stereotypes, the potential design options become as endless and individual as the wine collectors themselves.
With new trends, come new innovations, and there is one wine racking system on the market that is certainly creating a buzz! The revolutionary CABLE WINE SYSTEMS® wine racking was developed by a wine cellar design company from Toronto, Canada in order to offer wine lovers a contemporary alternative to the more conventional styles of wood and metal wine racking that were available at that time. The creators of the CABLE WINE SYSTEMS® wine racking system were intent on developing a sleek and modern wine storage system that would complement and enhance any surrounding materials in a way that was both functional and attractive. In addition, the CABLE WINE SYSTEMS® wine racking system successfully managed to merge more traditional perceptions of what constitutes a “wine cellar” with the more minimalist and modern look of many of today’s design trends.
While there are many contemporary wine racking solutions on the market, the versatility of the Cable Wine System is truly second to none. The Cable Wine System can accommodate both standard and magnum sized bottles with in the same design as well as feature specific vintages. Floating shelves can also be incorporated within the design, providing an eye-catching space to display decanters or champagne bottles. Accent lighting can further enhance the CABLE WINE SYSTEM® due to the fact that light shone from above or below travels freely throughout the system permitting other custom features such as stone or textured walls to be visible and appreciated as well.The minimalist nature of the Cable Wine System allows for excellent label visibility throughout an entire wine display regardless of where particular bottles are situated. By positioning bottle labels for easy viewing (e.g. lower bottle labels facing up, higher bottle labels turned down), specific wine bottles can be quickly located in any row or column of the system without having to disturb or remove any other wine bottles. The openness of the system also ensures that there is continuous air flow throughout the entire wine collection or display, thereby permitting temperatures to remain constant and consistent. Made from high-quality stainless steel and chromed brass connecting clamps, the CABLE WINE SYSTEM® and with the ability to hold any number or size of bottle, the CABLE WINE SYSTEM® meets all the needs of even the boldest wine collectors.
Expertly blending different textures, this wine room incorporates both wood and glass elements with the CABLE WINE SYSTEM® wine racking, creating a finished style that exudes both high-end luxury as well as the warmth of a more traditional space.
The CABLE WINE SYSTEM® wine racking is utilized in this custom refrigerated wine cellar, creating the look and feel of a wine fridge, yet with the sleek sophistication that only cable wine racking can offer.
With the CABLE WINE SYSTEM® wine racking floating just beyond the seamless glass entrance, this condominium wine room beautifully incorporates several wine storage systems together, achieving a texturized aesthetic that is both sophisticated and ultra-modern.