Wine Culture and Information - Volume 13
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  Corkscrew Issue 16, February 2004   
Personal CellarPersonal Cellar  Contents 
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Personal Cellar

Choosing wines for a personal cellar in not always easy. Many factors should be carefully considered before proceeding to the purchasing of bottles that will make the personal patrimony of every wine lover

 The wish and the dream of every wine lover is to own a room expressly destined to the keeping of his or her wines. Unfortunately the ideal rooms full of joyous bottles to be uncorked in special occasions, often exists in dreams only and sometimes it is also good it is like that. This dream would be great to turn into reality because of the fact of owning good bottles, therefore allowing them to age properly and to appreciate them at their best possible condition. Sometimes it is good this to remain just a dream because one usually ends up to buy an excessive quantity of bottles, that inevitably get ruined because of the unfavorable keeping conditions, or because one simply has waited too long and the wine has lost its best qualities.

 

The Ideal Cellar

 A frequent subject among wine lovers is about the so called “ideal cellar”, which does not only represent the best room and conditions to keep wine, but, first of all, the types and the number of bottles to buy for the “personal provision”. The ideal cellar, of course, is strongly conditioned by personal factors, including economic availability and the money one thinks wine is worth of, as well as the availability of a room really suited for the keeping of bottles. The majority of wine lovers, unfortunately, do not have in their houses rooms suited for the keeping of wine, not all have the privilege of owning a suitable room to be exclusively used as a cellar. For these reasons the number of bottles for the personal cellar is not high: the risk of getting them ruined would be high.

 Provided one does not want to collect bottles of wines or buy wines as a form of investment in the hope of a future economic revaluation, in the lack of a proper room for keeping, it is good to set a minimum number of bottles and to buy more wines in special occasions or when needed. In this sense it is better to keep a minimal number of bottles while leaving the “risk” of keeping to specialized shops which usually have proper rooms suited for storing bottles. It should be remembered the quality of the state of a bottle of wine sold in a shop is usually conditioned by the seriousness of the retailer and by the way he or she cares of the keeping of wines before selling them. Seriousness and honesty of a wine retailer is also determined by these factors, therefore, besides being a matter of trust, is also a matter of reliability.

 When the purpose of owning bottles is solely for the making of a personal cellar which wines are to be considered for personal consumption, it is therefore good and wise to limit the number of wines. It should be remembered the number of wines which are really suited for the aging in bottle for long period of time are very few. This is true for almost all white wines but also for many red wines which are usually believed to be suited for aging. Owning a sufficient and not exaggerated number of wines, in particular white wines, ensures a good replacement of bottles and the guarantee to taste the wine at its best moment. It should be also remembered that producers release their wines in the market when they believe them to be ready, that is in their optimal condition of appreciation. Of course this does not mean they are not suited for the aging in bottle, or that it is not advisable the aging of any wine, it simply means the choice of wines for aging should be done carefully by choosing wines which have been produced for this specific purpose.


Registering the bottles of a
personal cellar is an useful operation
Registering the bottles of a personal cellar is an useful operation

 The keeping of wine done in the aim of aging is not a pretty easy subject. First of all it should be determined a wine suited for aging and this initial and fundamental factor is not always easy to determine. In case we consider Cabernet Sauvignon grape, we can say, with a good approximation, its aging capacity is definable from four years to about twenty years, a pretty wide period of time. This means there are Cabernet Sauvignons that after 4 years are old and other that after 20 years are in good conditions and can continue they journey in time. Therefore a wine produced with Cabernet Sauvignon does not always offer a safe guarantee of keeping. There are many factors which determine the aging of a wine, among the many are to be mentioned the quality of grape and of cultivation, the climate and environmental conditions as well as the wine making techniques. These details are usually unknown to the average consumer, therefore, provided he or she exactly knows that specific wine and the condition of the vintage, keeping and aging have some level of risk. In this sense it would be good that producers would provide information in the labels about the aging potentialities of their wines. The myth a wine improves with time is not always true, often time irremediably deteriorates a wine, in particular white wines and those reds destined to an immediate consumption. The sad conclusion is that consumers, in order to obey to this golden rule of “real experts”, end up drinking a wine when it is too late instead of appreciating it when it could offer its best qualities.

 The ideal cellar is also realized by considering the personal preferences of its owner. In this sense it is good to decide the purpose of the cellar before proceeding with the purchasing of bottles. In case the purpose is to have wines to be matched with one's own meals, it is good to consider the typical foods present in one's own table and therefore purchasing the adequate wines. This means, for example, that in case your nutritional habits are mainly about vegetables, the occasions to uncork a bottle of robust red will be pretty few. Of course it is good to think of the purchasing of such wines because it is more likely that, sooner or later, or sometimes, one would eat a richer meal and that would require an equally rich wine. Last but not the least, the ideal cellar is also based according to the tastes of the owner, no matter of his or her nutritional preferences, therefore there will be always present those wines that are liked the most and that are frequently uncorked.

 

Managing the Cellar

 No matter the size of the cellar and the number of bottles owned, it is always a good idea to arrange things for a good management. Even though you have few bottles, no matter this could seem useless, it is indispensable to properly manage the wines purchased and consumed. The management of the cellar does not requires special resources, it will be enough using a simple notebook where every cellar operation will be registered. In this sense the use of a computer software will certainly be useful: there are specific programs for the management of a cellar and they can be both purchased or downloaded by Internet. A simple application for the management of the cellar can be realized by using a properly personalized spreadsheet.

 It will be enough to register the name of the wine and of the producer, the vintage, the date of purchase, the position in the cellar and the potential period of aging. Other useful information include the place of purchase and price, the date of consumption, alcohol percentage as well as remarks about the wine. With time your cellar register will make a precious source of information about your consumptions and cellar economy, the trend of prices of the most consumed wines and, last but not the least, it will be useful in determining the bottles which are about to get too old or that reached their best time of appreciation. The cellar register will be updated every time a bottle of wine is being purchased or consumed and when the position of a bottle has changed: it will strictly reflect the real and historical condition of your cellar. Even though the compilation of a cellar register seems to be exaggerated or useless, with time its function will certainly be appreciable and it will certainly be worth the time of few minutes spent in taking notes of the operations.

 

Purchasing Wines

 As soon as a room of the house has been chosen for the keeping of wines, or it was decided to use a cellar-fridge, we can start filling the positions with bottles of wines. A personal cellar represents both the preferences of the owner and his or her attitudes and habits to offer wines to his or her guests and friends. Before starting buying bottles of wine for the personal and new cellar, it is good to set a budget for the initial purchase as well as deciding both the quantity and the quality of wines to be bought. In particular in the beginning - an useful advice for neophytes - it is more likely that one is going to be excited by the idea of the cellar and ends up spending more money than one would believe: this is something that may frequently and easily happen when purchasing certain wines.


 

 In your initial plans it is good to take advice from the ones having a better experience, in this sense the advices of a honest and expert wine shop manager will certainly be useful. Try to use the money destined for your cellar to the purchasing of assorted types of wines in order to have the right wine at the right time. For example in case your preference is for white wines, they will be the ones more present in your cellar, however it will also be wise to purchase some types of wine as well. A good cellar is also determined by its flexibility and versatility. Try to ideally divide your cellar in types while making sure that for every type of wine are bought one or two different bottles. A good division could be made according to the following types: sparkling wines, light white wines, structured white wines, rose wines, young red wines, aged red wines, sweet and fortified wines.

 These categories can be further divided according to the number of wines to be purchased. For example the category of sparkling wines can be divided into Charmat sparkling wines and classic method sparkling wines, as well as aged red wines can be divided into structured wines, full bodied wines and wines to be aged. In case the cellar you are going to set up is also your very first cellar, it is not however wise to purchase a high number of bottles. First of all it is good to test the suitability of the room to be used as a cellar and, last but not the least, you personal attitude as a cellar manager. For this reason it is advisable not to exceed 40 bottles of wines for your first cellar: this will also be useful to understand the exact measure of your consumption. In case your cellar is particularly suited for the keeping of wine, you can certainly proceed with the purchasing of valuable wines and destined to the aging in bottle. However this is a decision that should be made when one is sure about the real keeping possibilities of the cellar and, moreover, of the measure of your passion for the beverage of Bacchus.

 Realizing a personal cellar, besides ensuring a good availability of wines to be consumed in the best occasions, allows the improvement of one's own wine culture. Ideally every wine has its own characteristics which are most of the times unrepeatable, tells about the place where it is from and about the persons who made it. Ideally, knowing wine is, in a sense, knowing the culture of the places of the world. The glass can therefore be the witness of the smells and tastes of a place and of its land, a tale that should be carefully listened. The personal cellar therefore keeps the memories and the colors of the places of the world to be discovered: a journey which begins at the uncorking of every bottle and every wine and every bottle have an unique story to tell. Having a good cellar and to be able to properly manage it also means to respect the wine it keeps and therefore oneself. If the wines kept in your cellar are respected this also means knowing the right way to appreciate wine: a pleasure made of special and unrepeatable moments, something which should never be abused.

 




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  Corkscrew Issue 16, February 2004   
Personal CellarPersonal Cellar  Contents 
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