Master of Wine Emma Jenkins looks at the advantages of having your own cellar collection of drink-now and save-for-later wines.
Do you have a wine cellar? When most people think of cellaring wine, they think of buying expensive wine and storing it in a precise fashion until some distant time. It all seems very serious, not to mention time-consuming and costly. But I consider a cellar to be simply a collection of wine.
Yes, there may be serious and perhaps pricey bottles intended for long-term care but, mostly, cellars function as a selection from which you can draw no matter what the occasion demands. That might be Friday night Champers-with-fish-and-chips, the perfect white for an impromptu afternoon with friends, or good stocks of a bargain red. Of course, a cellar allows you to squirrel away wines that are intended to reach their peak many years from now; it’s a wonderful opportunity to see how fine wine evolves – plus a great excuse for a future fabulous dinner party of aged treasures! – but mostly, cellars are about the pleasure and discovery that wine of any age can bring.
If you do intend assembling and caring for a collection of wine, it doesn’t hurt to set things up properly. The sky’s the limit if your budget allows for a custom-made cellar, but so long as you choose somewhere relatively cool (12-15°C is ideal) and, more importantly, without significant fluctuation (a few degrees across seasons is fine but preferably not across days or weeks), that’s relatively out of the way (minimises both vibration disturbances and the inevitable ill-advised drunken raids), you’ll be on the right track. A system for recording what you store is crucial as it saves forgotten wines languishing past their peak – there are some great apps available for this task. When you can afford to, buy at least six bottles of wines you particularly enjoy, as this allows a bottle or so a year to be opened, letting you take pleasure in their evolution. I keep my chosen few in their original boxes and write on the outside their anticipated drinking window – for example, 2020-2022 (err on the side of caution here: it’s better to drink a wine too early than too late).
While robust red wines tend to be the mainstay of a cellar, New Zealand’s climate, cuisine and winemaking prowess all demand a fair share be devoted to white wine. It’s good to have earlier drinking examples of whites and reds on hand for your regular tipple – this also enables the more special numbers to grow old unmolested.
I’d happily tuck away any of the wines below in my cellar, but you should build one to suit your tastes and needs. After all, that is the best thing of all about a cellar – it’s your very own, personally tailored wine shop, right there at home.
Mostly, cellars are about the pleasure and discovery of wine of any age.