Building a perfect wine cellar — and what to put in it

| April 11, 2017 | 0 Comments
Building a wine collection — whether in a specialized cellar, or a cool, dark closet — will help you determine at what age you most enjoy your wines.  (Photo: © Christian Delbert | Dreamstime.com)

Building a wine collection — whether in a specialized cellar, or a cool, dark closet — will help you determine at what age you most enjoy your wines. (Photo: © Christian Delbert | Dreamstime.com)

It’s quite natural for those who enjoy wine to develop some nesting tendencies. Things start off innocently enough, with a glass of wine when out and about, or perhaps a bottle bought to be enjoyed at home. Then, some hoarding begins. Whether it’s stashing a few bottles in the closet or building a designer wine room, the result is still your own collection. Now, you can indulge in a glass of wine at a moment’s notice or pour something special for guests. And, with some patience, an investment in the present will not only provide a delicious wine in the future, but reward you with the fascinating experience of following a wine’s development.
Generally speaking, building a wine collection can take two paths. A collection can be as extravagant and no-expenses- spared as its architect’s wildest dreams: stacked with famous producers, high-scoring vintages and rare bottles. Or, if space, time and funds are not in large supply, the collection can be more casual, without losing the benefits of cellaring. The quality of wine in a collection, particularly if aging is a goal, isn’t defined by the attractiveness of the cellar. As long as the bottles are stored horizontally in a cool dark area that is a little humid and devoid of vibrations or strong odours, a wine of any pedigree will develop and age.
If cellaring is a new practice, much can be learned with a little experimentation. Purchase wine that you expect will be a good candidate for aging in three-bottle lots. Open one bottle immediately, a second a couple of years after that and the third a few years after that one. With proper note-taking, this practice helps you determine at what age you enjoy your wines. It will also help set expectations for what aged wine tastes like.
Classic wines and their price tags can help form a solid foundation for your collection, and Tarlant’s Cuvée Louis ($96 through Vintages) can be a great place to start. This heady and rich Extra Brut style of Champagne is creamy on the palate and has generous flavours of nut and spice. It will be great to open for any occasion as it develops over the next three to five years.
Wines from great vintages, such as Bordeaux’s fantastic 2010, can also round out a collection. The 2010 Château Malartic-Lagravière from Pessac-Léognan ($134 through Vintages) is a perfect example. Ample and tremendously enjoyable now, this complex and hugely expressive red will drink amazingly well over at least two decades, if not more.
Some less-hyped vintages can still be sources of quality, age-worthy wines. Although 2013 was challenging in France’s Southern Rhône, Domaine de la Vieille Julienne’s Les Hauts Lieux Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($104 through Vintages) would be a great addition to any cellar. Laden with dark fruit, licorice and minerality, it also has the concentration and structure necessary for at least 15 years of cellar aging.
Again, expense doesn’t make a quality wine collection. For their price, Niagara Rieslings can be tremendous for aging. While several of the region’s wineries produce great Rieslings, Charles Baker’s 2013 Picone Vineyard ($35 through Vintages or directly from the winery) is a particularly delicious example. Sourced from vines that are more than 35 years old, this Riesling’s purity and energy will bring much drinking pleasure anytime over the next five years.
Big bucks need not also be spent on a great red for the cellar. Tenuta di Ghizzano’s 2012 Veneroso ($30 through Vintages) is an excellent value for a mini super-Tuscan from an organic family-run estate winery with only 20 hectares under vine. A blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, Veneroso is perfumed, spicy and very expressive, and will also easily provide up to 10 years of development.

Pieter Van den Weghe is general manager and sommelier at Beckta.

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Pieter Van den Weghe is general manager and wine director at Beckta dining & wine.

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