Article By: David Singer
So you've finally decided to get serious about collecting wine. The idea of having a cellar is certainly an enticing one - especially to your significant other who wants the cases of wine stacked all over the place put away somewhere. Like any real estate agent will tell you: location, location, location is a primary consideration. Will your wine collection live in a wine fridge or are you building an actual cellar? Wine fridges are a perfectly good option for many collectors, with sizes that range in capacity from 16 bottles to a staggering 26OO bottles. They work especially well when taking into account most people's living space. Apartments and condos generally don't have basements or extra storage space, so investing in a wine fridge is certainly an excellent option for this type of home. Choosing between the sizes really isn't as hard as you might think. For most people, a 16-bottle unit is much too small, though they make an excellent addition to your kitchen to keep everyday wines at the proper temperature. For a new cellar, a 3OO-bottle fridge is a good size; this equals about 25 cases of wine. This is about the same size as an average kitchen refrigerator. Having something of this size allows you to buy the wines you like without worrying about space - for the time being. Having bought a new fridge and realizing that "I'm out of room already?!" is at best extremely frustrating.
Now if you are lucky enough to have an extra room or a basement, building your own cellar is an exciting prospect. In selecting the room, make sure it isn't one that undergoes temperature changes on a regular basis. For example, the room right next to your water heater or washer/dryer will be warmer than other parts of the house when they are running. The heat exhaust does go somewhere, and you don't want it going into your wine cellar. The room should not have any windows, or if it does make sure its okay to weather treat - again, being mindful that when the seasons change in Massachusetts, so does the temperature, in a big way. And keep the shades down all the time. You don't want sunlight bathing your wine with warmth or UV light; dark bottles are not enough protection for the wines. Also, check that the room will hold temperature and humidity. You'll want to establish ideal conditions, and having a drafty room is one way to burn out your new temperature control unit pretty fast.
The temperature of your cellar should be between fifty-five and sixty degrees Fahrenheit. Consistency is more important than the exact number, though, the temperature cannot vary wildly. Jumping between fifty-five and seventy is more damaging than a cellar that stays at sixty-five all the time. The ideal humidity for a cellar is widely debated. Some argue that seventy-five percent is optimal; however a constantly damp cellar will damage the labels. I have a few great bottles of wine with moldy, mildewy labels thanks to storage in a damp cooler during a cross-country move. Though strictly cosmetic, it does change the value of the wine if you decide to sell it. Anything above fifty percent humidity should work out fine. Racking styles are really a personal and organizational preference. Do you want to display your original wooden cases or have all the wines out and organized by country?
Now comes the fun part: what to buy and how much? The easy answer is: buy what you like. A more difficult answer is collecting a balanced cellar. By this I mean one that has many different styles of wine that fit many situations - wine for different times of the year, possible food and wine pairings, short and long-term cellaring wines, and so forth. This topic could comprise at least another entire article, but here are a few suggestions. Sparkling Wine should include a Non-Vintage Champagne that you like and a prestige cuvee or two that you enjoy as well as an affordable sparkler for those hot summer days or a base that's needed for cocktails. White wine should be composed of a good mix of styles from the crisp - like Sauvignon Blanc or dry Riesling - to the rich and buttery, such as white northern Rhone or Chardonnay from anywhere around the world. Red wine should include such wines as some lighter bodied wines like Cru Beaujolais and Pinot Noir, to the richer Syrahs, Zinfandels and of course Cabernets. If you still have some space don't forget to include some Ports, Sauternes and an Ice wine or two. So now your cellar is now in place. Have fun filling it!