5 tips to start your wine cellar
A wine cellar is of course an opportunity to reserve beautiful moments of tasting and sharing. But it is also a heritage that, like the contents of the bottles, improves with time, provided you make the right choices. Here are some keys to getting started.
There are many reasons to create a wine cellar: the desire to age wines yourself, to choose great recent vintages and let them blossom in the right conditions, or to prepare a nice gift for your children's future. All are good and deserve not to be taken lightly. Here is a small guide to help in this beautiful adventure.
1. Create a wine cellar that will keep your wines in good conditions
To keep your wines in the best possible conditions, there are three possibilities:
Keep your wines in a natural cellar
Keep them in an electric cellar
Keep them in a professional external storage facility
The choice of the storage method depends essentially on your needs and capacities: if you already have a natural cellar that respects the requirements of wine in terms of temperature, humidity and darkness, the solution seems obvious. On the other hand, if this is not the case, it may be wise to invest in a Eurocave type electric wine cellar, but in this case, be careful to inform yourself before buying: not all models are equal and some have a lot of trouble staying at a constant temperature, especially in hot weather, when we know that strong temperature variations are one of the main enemies of good wine conservation. It is generally necessary to pay a significant amount of money to obtain a reliable model (see our advice on wine cabinets). Finally, there is a third option: store your wines outside your home in ideal conditions, at a professional's place, by renting a dedicated space. There are several companies offering such services; notably in Paris with La Cave, which we mentioned in our article "A La Cave...like home! In all three cases, the important thing is to always take care of the good conservation conditions of the wine.
Butler's advice: think about securing your cellar... spread your risks by storing your wines in several places. Too often we see our wine lovers crying when their precious bottles disappear. Also check your home insurance policy, the company should be able to take into account the value of your cellar.
2. Choose wines you like... And listen to the advice of people you trust
There is no secret, the best rule is to choose the wines you like, far from the fashions and trends. Easy to say, you may say, if you are a complete beginner, still searching for your own taste and preferences.
The pitfall can be to limit yourself to the wines you know, and to lack openness: there is so much to discover, especially at the beginning, try to taste all types of wines, from all regions and all styles and to build an eclectic cellar. To do this, don't hesitate to ask for advice, to get wine recommendations from friends and family or from professionals.
Butler's advice: you inevitably have a friend who knows a little about wine, an uncle who is a wine fanatic, or relatives who have a few good bottles left in a corner of their cellar... Ask them to tell you about the wines they like, to guide you, they will do so with the prism of their tastes, of course, but this is how the exchange, the sharing, and the knowledge begin.
3. Don't put all your eggs in one basket, because happiness is in the variety
Perhaps you are slightly monomaniacal about a particular region or type of wine and the temptation may be great to bet everything on it for the constitution of your cellar... Be careful however, know that very often, tastes in wines evolve and sometimes change quite radically. So don't hesitate to bet on the great classics and the rising stars of each region. The same goes for grape varieties and colors. For example, it is often observed that many wine lovers start out liking powerful red wines and end up, with time, preferring finer and more elegant wines, less demonstrative, and often turn more to white wines.
In terms of vintages, it is also important to bet on variety. First of all, because you will need both wines to keep and wines that are ready to drink more quickly, even immediately. As for the wines you want to keep for a while, of course you have to make sure that they are good vintages to keep. The wine itself must also be of good quality: to age well, it is necessary that they have a great balance, in terms of tannins, alcohol and acidity.
We generally advise you to start your cellar with about 15% of wines that you plan to drink within two years, and 85% of wines for aging. For wines of immediate thirst, you can favor dry white and sparkling wines, but also some "glouglou" red wines, such as Beaujolais wines, or fruity wines, whatever the region (often inexpensive wines). Concerning the wines to be kept, a balanced cellar is generally composed of 20% Bordeaux, 20% Burgundy, 15% Rhone, 10% Loire, 5% Alsace, 5% Champagne, 5% Languedoc-Roussillon, 5% South-Western, 5% other French regions (Jura, Savoy, Corsica) and 5% foreign wines (which are clearly increasing at the moment) In detail, for the wines to be kept, preference should be given to red wines - which generally have a greater ageing potential - but also to some dry and sweet white wines. For example, we can think of a distribution of about 65% of red wines, 25% of dry and sparkling white wines and 10% of sweet wines (if you are a lover of sweet wines).
This necessary diversity is also to be taken into account if you wish to keep in mind the possibility of wanting/needing to resell your wines one day, not necessarily for investment purposes, but perhaps simply because your tastes will have evolved or out of necessity.
Butler's advice: go slowly! Don't buy 24 bottles of a wine you've fallen for. You might get tired of it. Start with 3 bottles of a wine you like. Add a magnum for the big days. One day, you'll feel that famous twinge of frustration as you savor the last drops of a wine you've loved... Pleasure is also born from the feeling of lack, right?
4. Control your budget by choosing the best value for money for your cellar
Obviously, not everyone has the possibility - or even the desire - to buy wines costing hundreds or even thousands of euros... Fortunately, in every region, there are excellent value for money wines that can age gracefully for many years. The difficulty is to identify them. We've talked about guides, word of mouth, your experience. Finally, choose trusted merchants, whether it is your wine merchant or your favorite website, which has specially designed a demanding range of the best quality-price ratios in the vineyard.
Another "good tip" consists in favoring vintages with good ageing potential and the most attractive regions in terms of quality/price ratio.
Another key to control the budget is not to be too focused on certain choices, especially in terms of region. For example, when it comes to choosing Burgundy wines to put in your cellar, don't hesitate to choose the Côte de Beaune and the Côte Chalonnaise rather than the Côtes de Nuits, which is infinitely more expensive. On this subject, don't hesitate to read our article "These "small" appellations that are popular", or "Our favorites in the "small" appellations of Bordeaux".
5. Optimize the organization and management of your cellar
It may seem obvious, but think about organizing your cellar from the start! Many people classify their wines by region, but you can also think about sorting them by vintage or by age. The use of visual markers, such as stickers, can be very useful to find your way around. In any case, we advise you to keep a register (on a book, a slate or even a digital support), listing the wines you have and specifying the climaxes, the periods from which your wines will be ready to drink and to keep this register up to date when you remove a wine. Indeed, many people have had the bitter experience of finding a wine forgotten at the bottom of their cellar and which has largely exceeded its ageing potential. On this subject, we advise you to read our articles "What is the peak of a wine?" and "What are the conditions for a wine to be a wine for aging? Keep in mind that the ageing potential of wines can be very different from one wine to another, even between wines of the same appellation. And remember that, contrary to popular belief, even champagne can be kept for a long time. To avoid this turning sour, there is only one word: O-R-G-A-N-I-S-A-T-I-O-N!