Cellar Management Ideas

In many markets around the US a wine cellar is becoming a standard feature in new houses. For example, in the Denver metro area a house priced at about $450,000 or higher usually has a wine cellar; condos have cellars as well. This trend has been observed all over the country.

One of the first issues that confronts people who have a wine cellar in their house is learning how to buy wine for a cellar.

It seems like it should be easy, but in reality buying for a cellar takes planning and forethought. Here are a few simple guidelines:


Always taste before buying - Buy one bottle, taste it, and then make a decision to purchase more. Also keep in mind that you do not have to purchase a case of everything.

If your cellar is not large (say, less than 500 bottles) then purchasing 12-bottle cases of wine means you can have about 40 different wines in the cellar. This may sound like a lot, but if you purchase 3, 4 or 6 bottles it means you could have 80 to 100 different wines, or more, in the cellar.

As you get use to having wine in a cellar and begin to drink wine with dinner on a regular basis then having a wider range of options becomes appealing and less limiting when choosing a wine to go with dinner. Besides, the more wine you have in a cellar the less often you drink a particular producer - the worse thing that can happen is that it goes bad before you have a chance to drink it.

Keep costs in perspective - Cellars are not just for "expensive" wines. It is also a place to store the wines you drink every day. Therefore, learn to shop for values in all price groups.

Try and figure out what is a good value for the quality of the wine, regardless of the cost. Along with this, try and drink wine when it is ready to drink. Most wine should be consumed within 5 years of the vintage, but there are always wines with a longer life.

The rule-of-thumb we teach in our classes is called the "95% rule": 95% of the world's wines should be consumed within 5 years of being produced, of the remaining 5%. at least 95% of them should be consumed within 10 years of the vintage. This means that only about ¼ of 1 percent of the worlds wine has longer than a 10-year life.

Most wines with a long life are undrinkable on release, so if you can purchase a current release and take it home for dinner that night it probable does not have a really long life.

Be aware of your consumption patterns - We recommend keeping a log or diary of your consumption patterns for at least 3 to 6 months before beginning to stock a cellar. You might be surprised at how much, or how little, you actually consume. Keep in mind that if you entertain a great deal, especially for dinner, and enjoy having wine almost every night, then you are a great candidate for a cellar anyway.

Expand your palate - having a cellar usually expands your palate because you have more opportunity to have wine to drink every day. (Which, by the way, is very good for your health - one or two glasses of wine a day.) Therefore, it is not a good idea to complete fill up your cellar when you initially stock it because the more you drink the more your palate expands and changes.

Always leave room in the cellar for new wines or wines you have just "discovered." A good idea is to keep 10-20% of the available cellar storage free. You never know what new wine will become available or if you will "discover" white Burgundies after drinking nothing but California Chardonnay.

These guidelines were taken from a lecture on cellar design and management given in our Advanced Wine Course. We also offer a cellar design and management one-night class for the general public.

More Questions? Visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.


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