Wine Cellar Essentials

by | Sep 29, 2020 | Eve's Wine 101

In the last issue of élite Magazine, I shared my take on liquor cabinet essentials, so I thought it apropos to share Wine Cellar Essentials for this issue. Much like your liquor cabinet the wine cellar/chiller/rack in your home should be stocked with your favorites, but which favorite goes where, and for how long? Please allow me to help.
When we first started collecting wines we had twelve wooden cases stacked up in the coolest section of our home. We didn’t have a chiller or a dedicated cellar. And if this is where you’re at, it’s fine. For the short term.
Any wine, red or white, is not going to do well in a non-temperature-controlled environment for too long. Of course, direct sun, on a kitchen counter near your oven or stove-top, and the trunk of your car for a three-plus hour drive home from a winery are all bad ideas.
Over the years we replaced the trash compactor space in our kitchen with a chiller for wines that we pulled from our cellar that are ready to drink. We still continue to have a small rack that isn’t temperature controlled – for not so special wines (mostly supermarket buys) that we plan to drink very soon. Whites, and some reds in the summer months, go in our refrigerator but just for a day or so before serving as it’s too cold an environment for long term.
So, now the pesky question is what to buy and how long should you store it? (The cellar is the only unit we use for aging – also known as laying down.) The best source you have – besides me, lol – is the winemaker. He or she will have the BEST idea of how long their wine should be stored. Then, a rule of thumb for us, is as follows but we do allow for experimentation:
Chardonnay, vintage and non-vintage Champagne and Sparkling wine, white Rhônes, Sauvignon Blanc – basically all whites – are often made to drink now, especially domestic whites. But we have learned that so many wines do so great with aging I prompt you to age some, especially a favorite of yours, just to see how it changes. In a Chardonnay class where we opened several 20 to 30 year old magnums I noted lots of darker hues, still with incredible fresh fruit and balance. (Part of the reason is that a large format bottle – of any varietal – can go twice as long if not longer than a standard size bottle.)
For reds, with our interests we like Bordeaux from France, and go ten years or more. Barolo and Brunello from Italy, twenty or more, and even with that I’ve had to decant a typical Brunello for several hours before I plan to serve – and taste every hour to see if ready. Domestic reds from Santa Barbara County through to Paso Robles are usually in the drink now to age a few years category for us, while the Bordeaux varietals from Napa will go ten or longer. Again, this has been something we’ve played with for decades. And, like white wines, we will often lay down a good domestic red wine for longer just to see what it does.
In another article for élite I shared my meeting with winemaker John Munch, of Le Cuvier in Paso Robles. We spent several hours in the non-temperature controlled cellar below their winery, tasting several old vintages. None were chilled. In fact, when you buy one of John’s white wines it may even have a little notice on it saying, “Do Not Chill.” Goes to prove my point that the winemaker knows best, and to experiment yourself. No one knows your palate like you do.
A note about age, and this time I’m talking about your age. If you are 70 and above you really need to decide if you really think you can drink a lot of cellared wine in 10 or more years.
Finally, if you are feeling intimidated, know this, a little tidbit from one of the classes I’ve taken: The average amount of time a bottle of wine is aged is 20 minutes…as that’s the average length of time it takes to get home from the market.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email to ask a question about wine or spirits.


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