What I Love about Having a Wine Cellar
Jane Masters MW is Opimian’s Master of Wine
I don’t have a fancy looking walk-in wine cellar or even a dedicated wine fridge. My wines aren’t all perfectly organized and catalogued. In fact, I must admit that I don’t even have an accurate up-to-date list of all my wine purchases. I do have a spreadsheet, but I don’t always remember to update it!
I never quite know what wines I have. To complicate matters further, I have wines squirreled away in various locations in both France and the UK, depending on when and where I bought them and will want to drink them.
I don’t usually buy wines for financial return, although I do have a few investment-grade wines for which there is a market and could be sold. These are wines that are not ready for drinking now. To avoid temptation and just in case I do decide to sell them, they are stored in an external, climatized bonded wine warehouse. But generally, I buy wines for me, for drinking and for sharing.
What I love about having a wine cellar is having wines on hand for whatever the mood or occasion. The spontaneity of friends dropping by (remember those days?) and opening a bottle to share, or that Friday evening winding down feeling, or simply celebrating the sun shining… If a particular food is in season, I love digging out the perfect bottle to go with it. Although I have to admit that in my house we often do it the other way around – decide what we are going to eat based on the wine we fancy drinking!
In my daily work I come across bottles that blow me away. Over the years, I have had a few surprises tasting wine, some good and some bad. The nice surprises have been inexpensive wines made by the winemaker to be sold and drunk relatively young, but whose concentration and richness suggested more potential and were still showing well after 20 years. Some old Chilean Cabernets and Crozes-Hermitage come to mind.
There have been wines that I have bought and tucked away and then forgotten about. When lockdown first happened last year, I dug out a few of these old treasures, only to find that I had left them a bit too long in some cases! As a result, I was spurred on to drink more of my older wines rather than wait for the “right” special occasion. This past year I have been enjoying some deliciously mature bottles. Wines which, even if I wanted and could afford to, I would not be able to find in a wine shop now.
All wines have a life and optimum drinking period. Everyone’s taste preferences are different, and this includes a preference for younger or older wine styles. Many wines are made to be drunk young and will not improve. For those that are made to be aged, at their peak these wines have an extra dimension in terms of taste. But go too far and they “dry out”, becoming thin and dull. Having a case of wine in the cellar allows you to try a wine at different points in time and it is fascinating to see how it develops over the years.
Of course, it’s not always easy having a wine cellar full of delicious wines. There is often the temptation when a wine is drinking well that one bottle is simply not enough. If the bottles are close at hand, before you know it the case is down to one last bottle and the dilemma then is when to open that final one.