Photo: Brent Lello in his home cellar in Murrumbateman
Most people have a few bottles of wine lying around the home in various racks, receptacles, nooks or crannies. However, it does not take much thought or investment to kick-start a motley collection into a wine cellar to be proud of. We’re not talking about 100’s of bottles perfectly poised in some temperature and humidity controlled super-room. We’re just talking about having an accessible collection of wine that reflects your tastes and preferences.
So, do you need to store wine anyway? To answer this, ponder the following: Have you ever been three sheets to the wind and not been able to drive to the bottle-o to get that last-minute tipple? Have you ever been given a nice bottle from a friend and thought to bring it out in tip-top condition sometime down the track?
Ever wondered what a nice wine might drink like in several years, after a bit of TLC? If you answer “Yes” to any of these questions, some form of wine storage might be right for you.
Perhaps the most significant consideration is location. The biggest threat to the longevity of your wine’s life is large and rapid changes in temperature. If your storage “space” experiences high temperatures during the day and low temperatures during the night, then this may see your wine mature too quickly and end up as a down-the-sink stinker. The temperature should be as constant as possible to allow your wines to age gracefully.
Having a cool, candlelit, dungeon-like cellar space below ground is out of the question for most of us so pick a space that has relatively constant temperature, around 15 degrees is ideal.
You could also employ various forms of insulation for further temperature control but get the basics in place and you’re off to the races.
Most wine these days are sealed with a screw cap or “stelvin” closure. Screw caps allow wines to mature without the chance of “wet and mouldy cardboard” cork taint. For cellaring, screw-capped wines can be stored standing up which makes sense if you have intact cases of wine. You can access them easily without having to move around bottles to get to the one you need.
There are many types of cellar racking available ranging from “bins” that hold dozens of bottles to racks for individual bottle lots. A quick search on-line and I’m sure you will find a myriad of options suitable for the size and shape of your space. And based on personal experience, double-check that the rack is constructed of sturdy material.
Now your cellar space is set. Next week, we will cover off on what to load it with.
Part 2 follows below
Kick-Starting Your Wine Cellar – Part 2
Last week, we took a “butcher’s hook” to the essentials of a home wine cellar setup.
Now it’s time for the fun part – filling it up.
So, what wines to cellar then? That really does depend on what wines you enjoy. Ponder for a moment on recent wines experiences you have enjoyed. Was it a delicious drop from the Yass Valley region, or perhaps a wine from further afield? Was it a smooth and subtle red, or a zippy, zesty white? Chances are your wine experiences vary across a broad spectrum and therefore, so should be the wines in your cellar space.
I prefer my white wines to be young and fresh and don’t have many whites in the cellar. They tend to head straight for the fridge. However, some white wines are worthy cellar material, especially Riesling and Semillon. These varieties can transform dramatically and take on golden hues with the flavours transforming from bright, primary fruit characters to secondary, age-induced flavours of honey and buttered toast.
The meat in the wine cellar sandwich is most definitely red wine. For example, 98% of my cellar consists of red wines, and while most are Shiraz and Cabernet-based wines, I have pretty much every red grape variety covered, from nearly every wine region across Australia. There is an equal mix of wines from cooler climates such as the Yass Valley, Coonawarra and Margaret River regions, and wines from warmer climates like the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. It’s just a little bit special to be able to compare the differences between the different varieties, vintages and regions. Red wines will get lighter in colour with time in the cellar, morphing from deep purple and crimson to lighter, red brick hues.
The flavours should soften and become rounder and more mellow.
If you can, try buying several of the same bottles at a time; setting you up to try the wine over various stages of its lifecycle. The difference in the same wine two or three years apart can be dramatic and hugely rewarding. Look for wines that are in balance right from the get-go. Wines that are bright and bold, fruit-driven yet with lovely tannins and balanced acid should be right for the long haul.
A great way to source wines for your cellar space is by getting out amongst our local wineries, where you can chat to the winemaker about cellaring potential. Most wineries these days also have Cellar Clubs that deliver you a tasty case every so often at discounted prices. There are also some tremendous on-line wine buying forums these days, and it never takes long to fill a basket at the bottle-o.
So, here’s a second “Cheer” to happy cellaring and rewarding drinking.