Aged to Perfection
"Wine is bottled poetry," wrote novelist Robert Louis Stevenson. He understood that drinking wine is a romantic, sensual experience. Just imagine popping off the cork of a dusty bottle and easing back into your seat. Everything else begins to fade as you slowly savor each sip. You become captivated by the warm aromas, silky texture, and delicate taste lingering on your tongue. You begin to appreciate the intricate story contained within the bottle.
Through cellaring, wine is able to gracefully mature into its most complex and flavorful form. "Wine adds to the enjoyment of life, food, and people," says Dr. Bruce Woodham of Dothan. He believes that developing an interest in wine results in the desire and, as Bruce would say, need for a cellar. After building an elaborate cellar in his home, Bruce now hosts wine tastings for charity events and family gatherings.
Erik Kuehne, Alabama Regional Design Consultant for Wine Cellar Innovations, says, "I have clients who have been bitten by the wine bug, have wine stashed all over the house, and need a place to put it." He also said that, for most people, the wine cellar quickly becomes their favorite place in the house.
Many types of wine are ready to drink, but certain types improve greatly with age. Cellaring wine allows you to increase the size and variety of your collection and gives you longer to enjoy your wine. Bruce explains, "Having your own cellar allows for a wonderful sense of adventure. Christmas comes every time you find a special bottle you've forgotten."
As a general rule, more expensive wines are designed to become better with age so, generally, the more a wine costs the longer it should be kept. The country and region of origin can also be a factor in how long wine should be cellared. French and German wines are often considered "top-notch" and usually develop significantly with age. "A Cabernet that is 7 or 8 years old will be nice but not optimal for a longer time," Says Erik. "Similarly, drinking a French Bordeaux can become a magical experience if it has had the chance to mature properly for 20 to 30 years. it is exciting to open a bottle of wine that is 15 years old and understand what is in the bottle."
Erik adds, "Some people just want to store wine properly, but those that are really into wine prefer to go all out." Wine Cellar Innovations has created simple cellars for less than $10,000 to large, complex ones for up to $400,000. From the simplest cellar to the most elite there are a few key concerns that should be addressed.
Temperature and the consistency of temperature are the greatest concerns when cellaring wine. The ideal temperature for wine to age properly and with greater complexity is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Wine can be stored 15 degrees above or below the ideal temperature if it is kept at a constant temperature. Heat increases the aging process of wine while cold temperatures slow the aging process. If wine ages too fast it will dramatically affect the taste and aroma of the wine. Buying larger bottles of wine can help account for temperature fluctuations in wine storage conditions that are not ideal.
Three other elements that should be accounted for when cellaring wine include available room, humidity, and light. Erik says, "Some of our clients just want to house 100 bottles or less while others want a 15,000 bottle collection." A moist cork maintains a good seal, so a moderately damp cellar, about 70%-75% humidity, is ideal to keep the corks from drying out. Storing wine bottles horizontally can also help keep the cork damp. Darkness is ideal for a cellar as light, particularly UV light, can slowly destroy wine.
The basement is often the best place for wine storage. If you aren't ready for a full-fledged cellar, start out by adding wine racks to the space you already have. Redwood is the perfect wine rack material because it is strong yet soft enough to reduce scratches to the bottles and their labels, and it is odor-free. Wine storage cabinets and under-stairs cupboards both make for decent long-term solutions. Modular plastic containers and Styrofoam wine boxes can both work well for these small spaces.
Kitchens are one of the worst places to store wine, and while a spare refrigerator or a wine cooler are acceptable for short-term storage, they are not suggested for long-term use. It is best to call a wine cellar professional if you are interested in creating your own cellar. Erik advises, "A wine cellar is a very specialized system. It's an environment, and one corner cut can create a real issue." Erik also explains that houses that contain wine cellars have a much greater retail value, as wine consumption is only becoming more popular.
The benefits of having your own wine cellar are endless. Bruce says, "There is no indulgence finer than putting on some music, drinking wine, and being uninterrupted and unavailable."
For more information on design services contact Wine Cellar Innovations: www.winecellarinnovations.com/design.htm
Text by Ashlie Williams
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Step by step instructions for wine cellar construction by Wine Cellar Innovations:
- Location: The coolest and most humid place in your home
- Installing Studs: Insulation for a new space
- Rough-in refrigeration/ Installing an opening for a cooling unit
- Select and install insulation and vapor barrier
- Electrical outlet placement
- Wall Coverings: Water resistant dry-wall is a common choice
- Flooring: concrete, porcelain tiles, cork, hardwood
- Installing a door
- Lighting: avoid UV lighting
- Get final revision of your wine cellar design
How long to cellar wines to achieve optimum potential:
Cabernet Sauvignon: 2 years on
Pinot Gris: 1-2 years
Merlot: 0-1 year for low cost/ 5 to 25 years or more for vintage/top wines
Riesling: 2 years on depending on type
Pinot Noir: 0-10 years
Sauvignon Blanc: 0-5 years/ up to 15 for top wines
Chardonnay: 0-3 years/ longer for top wines