The Virtual Wine Cellar
Starting a cellar
When buying wine, it is best to purchase at least two bottles of the same product. If you buy only a single bottle and you really like it, you will kick yourself for the lost opportunity. This purchasing pattern will also give you the chance to see how the wine develops with a year's bottle age in your cellar. You may find the wine is too young when you open it, and you can look forward to the experience of tasting a wine you have aged yourself in the future.
There are other good reasons for starting a cellar:
- Time - you won't waste time looking around for the wine style you need for an impromptu dinner.
- Money - wine prices are going up all the time. If you age the wine yourself you will be drinking much cheaper in future.
- Availability - a given vintage or winery product may be sold out when you go to look for it.
- Satisfaction - a stock of carefully chosen wines can only improve with age.
The Cellar: An all-purpose starter cellar (sixty bottles)
- 4 red Bordeaux (château-bottled third to fifth growths or Cru Bourgeois)
- 4 red Burgundy (Volnay, Beaune, Pommard, Gevrey-Chambertin)
- 2 Beaujolais (named villages, for example, Fleurie, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent)
- 2 Rhône (Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Crozes Hermitage)
- 4 Italian reds (Chianti Riserva, Barolo, Barbaresco, Valpolicella)
- 2 Spanish reds (Rioja, Penedes)
- 2 Portuguese reds (Garrafeiras-Dão, Bairrada)
- 2 Californian reds (Cabernet Sauvignon)
- 2 Oregon reds (Pinot Noir)
- 2 Australian Cabernets (Coonawarra)
- 2 Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon (Maipo Valley)
- 2 Rosés (Rhône, Provence)
- 4 white Burgundy (Pouilly-Fuissé, Chablis, Puligny-Montrachet)
- 4 white Loire (Muscadet, Sancerre, Vouvray)
- 2 white Bordeaux (château-bottled Graves, Entre-Deux-Mers)
- 2 white Alsace (Gewürztraminer, Tokay-Pinot Gris)
- 2 Rhine (Riesling Spätlese, Auslese)
- 2 Mosel (Riesling Kabinett)
- 2 white Italian (Soave, Orvieto, Verdicchio)
- 2 Californian Chardonnay (Sonoma, Napa)
- 2 Australian Chardonnay (Hunter Valley, South Australia)
- 2 Dessert wines (Sauternes, Late Harvest Riesling)
- 2 Ontario Chardonnay
- 2 Sparkling wines (Champagne, Spanish Cava)
The easy way to build up a cellar is to replace immediately each bottle you consume with two bottles of the same or similar wine.
Wines to lay down for your grandchildren
Wine lovers enjoy the idea of laying wines away for a long time. The thought of pulling out a dusty bottle thick with cobwebs that has slumbered for twenty years in a dark corner of the cellar is very appealing. But too often the moment of truth turns out to be a monumental disappointment when the stuff tastes awful.
Very few wines will last twenty years because of the way they are produced. Even if they were made for long ageing, they could be destroyed by bad cellaring.
If you want to stash a few bottles away for little Johnny's twenty-first birthday or a future wedding anniversary, tuck them away in the coolest, most remote corner of your cellar (nearest the floor). Keep in mind that the larger the format, the longer the wine will live. Magnums are the best size container for allowing the product to mature slowly.
In the longevity stakes, the following wines from the best vintage years have an established track record for surviving two decades.
- Vintage port
- Vintage Madeira (especially Malmsey and Terrantez)
- Australian liqueur Muscat
- Château-bottled red Bordeaux (classified growths)
- Single domaine Grand Crus Burgundies
- Hermitage, Côte Rôtie (Rhône)
- Recioto delta Valpolicella
- Barolo Riserva
- Certain Rioja Gran Reserva reds (Marques de Murrieta, Muga, Lopez de Heredia)
- Some Portuguese garrafeiras
- Château Musar (Lebanon)
- Vega Sicilia (Spain)
- Barca Velha (Portugal)
- Grange Hermitage (Australia)
- Tokay Essencia (Hungary)
- Château-bottled Sauternes
- Top white single domaine Burgundies
- Single vineyard Vouvray
- Riesling Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese
- Riesling Icewine/Eiswein
- Marques de Murrieta Ygay Blanco (Rioja)
- Jura vin de paille
- Vin Jaune (Château-Châlon)
Wines NOT to lay down for the long haul
- Champagne and sparkling wine
- Spirits (they only improve in the wood)
- Most dry white wines
- Beaujolais, Valpolicella and other simple reds
- Fantasy blends
- Rosé wines
- Most half bottles (they mature much faster than 750 mL bottles)
- Wines without a vintage date
It should be noted that wines do not necessarily age at the same rate, especially when they get older. Even if you have a case of the same wine you may find a difference in maturity after several years of cellaring. A good analogy would be picking a bunch of roses and placing them in a vase. They will not all open up at the same rate and when in full bloom some will hold their petals longer than others.