Guest Author - Jim Fortune
Which comes first - the wine or the storage place. First you start with the bottles of wine. Let's figure out how many we are going to store and then figure out how and where to store them.
Your first question is probably - How many bottles?
Start with a small collection of 50 bottles. I had to laugh when I read this the first time. 50 bottles of wine at an average of $10 is $500. Note the price I mentioned was only $10. That could be a lot of money or it might be pocket change depending on your situation. But you are not going to buy them all at once. At least I didn't. Why 50 bottles? Your inventory should get rotated every six to twelve months. Mine is on the six month side. Yours might be different. We have between 1½ and 2 bottles every weekend. And usually none at all during the week. There are days when a bottle is called for during the week, but not many.
So let's start. Depending upon the number of celebrations you have in a six month period of time, birthdays, anniversary, etc., you might only want to keep three bottles of sparkling wine in your cellar. I say sparkling because most of the bubbly that is available for under $10 is sparkling and not Champagne. If you have Jewish friends, you might want a bottle or two of kosher wine; maybe one red and one white. No Jewish friends? Get 5 bottles of bubbly. So now you have your first 5 bottles of wine. This is easy, right? If you tend to drink more red than white or vice versa, plan on twice as many bottles of your favorite color and half of the other. For example, if you like reds, plan on stocking 30 bottles of red and 15 bottles of white. 30 plus 15 plus 3 sparkling wines and 2 kosher wines makes 50 bottles in your new cellar.
Your next question might be - Where to put it?
I am sure you have heard it before. It's all about location, location, location. You want some place where the temperature is fairly constant throughout the year. Living on my budget, I don't have a refrigerated wine rack system. Maybe some day I will. And maybe some day I will win the Lotto too. For right now, I have four cardboard cases of wine in my spare bedroom on the north side of the house where the temperature in the summer and winter is almost always cool. I would say that the average year round temperature in that room is about 55°. You might be tempted to start your "cellar" in a kitchen pantry since it will be close to your serving and drinking area. While pantry locations differ from floor plan to floor plan, be sure that your pantry is not near a heat source like a chimney or heating flue where the temperature could fluctuate in the wintertime depending on whether or not you had a fire in the fireplace, or the temperature goes down outside and goes up inside, on a cold and snowy night, when you turn on the furnace.
Now you are down to the next question - What to use for storage:
As stated above, I have four cardboard boxes along the wall of the spare bedroom on my lower level. The next time you go to your favorite place* to buy your wines, ask the person behind the counter if they have a box you can put the wine into to carry home. I must admit that I got one box from a case purchase I made of J. Lohr Chardonnay. As I consumed the nectar of the gods, I mean as I drank my J. Lohr Chardonnay, I replaced the empty slots in the case with additional new purchases of wine. The place should also be dark, so you may want to think twice about cutting off the tops of your cardboard boxes if you need the wine to be dark and your spare bedroom is not dark most, like 95% of the time.
* Hopefully you will develop a relationship with a knowledgeable wine person at a local wine shop. I go to one place just about all of the time and they have prices of the wine on the shelf, and I can go up and down the aisle and pick out the next batch of wines for under $10 without having to bother anyone. There is no relationship here; I do some research at The Wine Sleuth web site (http://www.thewinesleuth.com). I also go to a real wine shop that looks like a library on the inside. All of the wine is laying on its side on wooden shelves, and arranged according to varietals. I bought my fist bottle of J. Lohr here over 12 years ago. So having a relationship with this kind of wine person beats going to the supermarket to get all of your wines and picking them out by the price and going home with who knows what. The third place I go to is down by the railroad tracks - literally. The staff is quite knowledgeable and it is a great place to check out the under $10 wines by asking instead of buying a bunch and trying them myself.
I will continue with more tips in the next article and I will discuss bottle tags, temperature and humidity, diversification, plain and fancy cellars.
Until next time, let me know what is on your mind, and how you are doing, O.K.?
Oh - have you signed up for our Wine Newsletter?
Jim Fortune - the Bella Wine Guy