Tell me if this is you: A year ago, you decided those 40-cases of wine sitting on the floor of the extra bedroom were no way to enjoy your goodies. So, you decided to build a little cellar, something that would, say, fit about 700 bottles, plus 10 or so full-wooden cases.
The cellar was built much to your delight and then, the Wine Evils caught ahold of you. You went and bought and bought and bought some more. End result: Your cute little wine cellar is impossible to get into, as many cases, lying all over the floor, are preventing you from accessing it.
My Gosh, it is YOU!
No worries. You are not the only one. This happens regularly, even to the would-be smartest of us.
Here are a few easy steps to solve this situation:
1) Figure out what your yearly wine consumption is. It is not hard to do. Say you drink 5 bottles of wine per week. That is about 250 bottles a year. Then, you may host a couple of parties for a club you belong to, or a football game. With 30-40 people in attendance, you will go through 50 or so bottles each time, or a total of 100 bottles. Finally, you may want to gift wine to your child in college or a charity group for another 50 bottles.
Now you know you need about 400 bottles per year. Your goal should be to purchase about 35-cases a year and keep your cellar on a par. Most of the wines you will purchase have the ability to last at least 3-4 years before they lose freshness and quality, so you can feel comfortable about owning this large an inventory. The question is how do you store and rotate your wines? On to Step Two…
2) One-fourth of your inventory should be with Daily Drinking Wines. Whether whites for aperitif, roses for lunch or the pool, or reds to drink with a hearty meal — always have a nice selection of these wines. They could include the likes of Justin or H3 Cabernet Sauvignon, Methven or Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. Also include a medium-bodied Cotes du Rhone, a fuller-bodied Gigondas, or a zinger from Priorat. In whites, a Roero Arneis, a Pouilly Fuisse or Macon Villages, a Sancerre or Man Chenin Blanc will all do the trick — often for a lot less than $20 per bottle. This will be particularly pleasurable when you invite your next door neighbour for a glass and he tells you: “All I drink is Coors Light…”
3) Another fourth of your inventory should be Somewhat-Better Wines, between $25 and $50. You will find many highly-rated wines from every producing area that fit this bill. These wines generally need a little more ageing and care. (Note: Be sure your cellar offers 70 or so percent humidity.) Many American Cabernets are full-bodied, concentrated and quite ripe. All can benefit from some bottle age. Chateauneufs du Pape do too. In whites, Meursaults and Puligny Montrachet need 3-5 years of ageing, and so do late- harvested Rieslings from Germany or Alsace. For a special evening with friends or family, who enjoy a good bottle, these are the wines to pick from.
4) The third group comprises your Collection Wines. These are your pride and joy. You may have visited with Bill Harlan in California or had Alex Golitzin sign a bottle of Quilceda Creek for you. These wines are super special and need to be treated as such. Keep tabs on when you should drink them. Many have a 5-15 year ‘prime life,’ so be sure you don’t forget about them and drink something that is over-the-hill. Many whites can belong to that group: Grands Crus White Burgundies usually carry 14 percent alcohol, have enormous structure and can last 15-25 years, with proper storage.
5) The last group should be your Other Wines: Ports, Sherries, Champagnes, dessert wines, Ice Wines. Most of us have a tendency to buy only wines from the region we prefer, but isn’t there always a need for a few bottles of Champagne?
Of course, you also need a few different format bottles. When you would like one more glass of wine, but hate to open a fresh bottle, how pleasant it is to have a half bottle. When you host a dinner for eight, how cool is it to have a double magnum of Bordeaux throning on the table? By the same token, a few beautiful old bottles of Sauternes, with their dark amber color, sure look good as a display in your cellar.
To recap, organize your cellar. You invested a lot of time and money into it. With a little bit of work to keep the wines rotated and happy, you will always have the pleasure of picking the right bottle for any event. To top it all, you can keep your purchases to a manageable quantity and dollar amount. What could be better?