The following is a summary of the factors worthy of consideration on this fascinating topic.
Why should I start a cellar?
By building up a stock of wines you are able to buy wine in bulk at a good price, to hold wine that will benefit from aging and to compare wines from different vintages and wineries.
Your cellar also allows you to select a wine at any time without having to visit the wine shop.
Your cellar will give you many years of enhanced wine pleasure as both your collection and knowledge of wine grows.
How do I start collecting wines to form a cellar?
Make four resolutions.
1. Set the number of bottles you would like to hold.
2. Buy extra bottles when you are buying a wine you like.
3. Use a system to record the extra bottles and store them somewhere cool and dark.
4. Before drawing a wine from your cellar remember resolution 1 and consider resolution 2.
How do I know what wine to cellar?
Wines benefit from "cellaring" – many for a few days or weeks only before drinking, others for many months or years. Your cellar becomes a store from which you can draw a wine to suit most occasions. Start by cellaring the wines you are currently enjoying and extend to wines that will expand your range of vintages and varieties; you should avoid carrying too many of one variety or vintage. Be guided by others tasting notes and choose wines you are confident you will enjoy in the future. Use a system – either computerized or mechanical - to record your tasting notes and reorder your favourites.
How long do I keep wines for?
Ask the sales person when you buy the wine or contact the winery for good advice; many wineries now publish cellaring information on their websites.
Any information given will assume that your cellar maintains optimum conditions. If this is not the case, you will need to adjust the storage time - remember that it is always better to open a bottle too soon than too late. By using your chosen cellar door system diligently you will ensure your wines are opened at their optimum.
What are the optimum storage conditions for wine?
Wine should lie undisturbed in a quiet, dark and slightly humid place, within a temperature range of around 15 degrees. Wine stored in temperatures above the optimum will age faster. A light and dry atmosphere does not suit good wine storage. Choose a space that will remain constantly cool and dark.
What do I put my bottles in?
There are many alternatives on the market, or you can create your own racks or bins. Bins can be created from wooden boxes set in a diamond profile and racks can be built up using timber planks resting on bricks.
Using some proprietary systems, bottles do not need to be held in individual cells. Each bottle can have a numbered neck tag placed on it and your choice, selected from a cellar list, is located by finding the numbers.
How many bottles should I store?
Store as many bottles as space and funds will allow, but be aware of the drink-by dates. If you find yourself holding wines for too long, it may be that you are cellaring too many bottles, or not sharing enough with your friends! On the other hand, you should store at least enough bottles to allow the selection of a wine to suit most occasions. Your wine appreciation will grow with cellaring, so your original goal may change with your growing enthusiasm.
What is the cost of cellaring wine?
Cellaring wine will lead to greater wine appreciation and this can lead to more expensive wines being purchased. However many people find that the satisfaction gained from drinking higher quality wines actually reduces the quantity consumed. In addition the ability to buy wine when a good deal is found can result in major savings, while having the correct wine on hand for any occasion will give you greater value for money. Cellaring with Vinot can save you money.
How do I manage my cellar?
Each case or bottle can have a numbered neck tag placed on it, before being put to rest in the cellar. Data on that wine, including any tasting notes of yours or others, is recorded in your Cellar Book (manual or electronic). Your selection is made from the cellar list, and you locate your choice by finding the numbered neck tag. Your tasting notes and the removal of the wine can be recorded after the event.
How do I get the most from my cellared wines?
Store them correctly.
Know when to open them, using a good wine cellar program.
Know which wines have been opened, using individual bottle tags.
[Post Script. A south Gippsland winery, Gurdies, has written a terrific electronic booklet on cellaring wines. It's available on their website www.thegurdieswinery.com.au. It's well worth a look!]