A Cellaring Primer

Posted by Keith Wallace

With all the talk of the 2005 vintage in Bordeaux, this is probably a good time to discuss a few strategies for collecting wine. Because the truth of the matter is this: While buying a few bottles to lay down can potentially be one of the most rewarding things a wine lover does (aside from drinking Gaja Barbaresco on someone else’s nickel), it can also be the most heartbreaking.

There’s nothing worse than opening a bottle that has been staring out at you from its shelf in the cellar for the past decade, only to discover that it’s flawed. And whatever that flaw may be; corkage, old age, oxidation, whatever; the fact remains that you’ll likely find yourself almost frighteningly upset.

The sad truth, however, is that all wine collectors should expect this: It happens to the best of us.

But you’re not powerless here, and you can hedge your bets.

First, make sure you store your wines in the proper conditions: As close to 55-degrees as possible, in an appropriately humid atmosphere, away from vibrations and direct sunlight. There are some great cellars out there for a few hundred dollars; you can pick them up at Costco or Sam’s Club, for example, but make sure they’re vibration-free and humidity-controlled units. A dried-out cork and shaken-not-stirred bottles of wine do not make for terribly rewarding drinking.

Sometimes, however, the wines are D.O.A. And unfortunately, there’s no way to know before you open them. So to avoid the inevitable heartbreak of opening a flawed bottle 20 years after you bought it, make sure you buy duplicates of the wines you intend to lay down. Get other people involved, too: It’ll give you both something to look forward to, and it serves as a much-needed insurance policy. In my case, whenever I find an age-worthy wine, I buy two bottles: One for me and one for my father. He does the same thing. We’re hedging our bets against the vagaries of Bacchus.

And if both bottles are good, it’s merely a bonus. Want more? Check our our article on wine cellars.

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