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Serious About Cellaring

you’ve finally decided to get serious about collecting wine.
The idea of having a cellar is certainly an enticing one –
especially to your significant other who wants the cases of
wine stacked all over the place put away somewhere. Like any
real estate agent will tell you: location, location,
location is a primary consideration. Will your wine
collection live in a wine fridge or are you building an
actual cellar? Wine fridges are a perfectly good option for
many collectors, with sizes that range in capacity from 16
bottles to a staggering 26OO bottles. They work especially
well when taking into account most people’s living space.
Apartments and condos generally don’t have basements or
extra storage space, so investing in a wine fridge is
certainly an excellent option for this type of home.
Choosing between the sizes really isn’t as hard as you might
think. For most people, a 16-bottle unit is much too small,
though they make an excellent addition to your kitchen to
keep everyday wines at the proper temperature. For a new
cellar, a 3OO-bottle fridge is a good size; this equals
about 25 cases of wine. This is about the same size as an
average kitchen refrigerator. Having something of this size
allows you to buy the wines you like without worrying about
space – for the time being. Having bought a new fridge and
realizing that “I’m out of room already?!” is at best
extremely frustrating.

Now if you are
lucky enough to have an extra room or a basement, building
your own cellar is an exciting prospect. In selecting the
room, make sure it isn’t one that undergoes temperature
changes on a regular basis. For example, the room right next
to your water heater or washer/dryer will be warmer than
other parts of the house when they are running. The heat
exhaust does go somewhere, and you don’t want it going into
your wine cellar. The room should not have any windows, or
if it does make sure its okay to weather treat – again,
being mindful that when the seasons change in Massachusetts,
so does the temperature, in a big way. And keep the shades
down all the time. You don’t want sunlight bathing your wine
with warmth or UV light; dark bottles are not enough
protection for the wines. Also, check that the room will
hold temperature and humidity. You’ll want to establish
ideal conditions, and having a drafty room is one way to
burn out your new temperature control unit pretty

The temperature
of your cellar should be between fifty-five and sixty
degrees Fahrenheit. Consistency is more important than the
exact number, though, the temperature cannot vary wildly.
Jumping between fifty-five and seventy is more damaging than
a cellar that stays at sixty-five all the time. The ideal
humidity for a cellar is widely debated. Some argue that
seventy-five percent is optimal; however a constantly damp
cellar will damage the labels. I have a few great bottles of
wine with moldy, mildewy labels thanks to storage in a damp
cooler during a cross-country move. Though strictly
cosmetic, it does change the value of the wine if you decide
to sell it. Anything above fifty percent humidity should
work out fine. Racking styles are really a personal and
organizational preference. Do you want to display your
original wooden cases or have all the wines out and
organized by country?

Now comes the
fun part: what to buy and how much? The easy answer is: buy
what you like. A more difficult answer is collecting a
balanced cellar. By this I mean one that has many different
styles of wine that fit many situations – wine for different
times of the year, possible food and wine pairings, short
and long-term cellaring wines, and so forth. This topic
could comprise at least another entire article, but here are
a few suggestions. Sparkling Wine should include a
Non-Vintage Champagne that you like and a prestige cuvee or
two that you enjoy as well as an affordable sparkler for
those hot summer days or a base that’s needed for cocktails.
White wine should be composed of a good mix of styles from
the crisp – like Sauvignon Blanc or dry Riesling – to the
rich and buttery, such as white northern Rhone or Chardonnay
from anywhere around the world. Red wine should include such
wines as some lighter bodied wines like Cru Beaujolais and
Pinot Noir, to the richer Syrahs, Zinfandels and of course
Cabernets. If you still have some space don’t forget to
include some Ports, Sauternes and an Ice wine or two. So now
your cellar is now in place. Have fun filling it!