Random thoughts on the world of wine, presented in no particular order.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Filling a wine cellar

One question facing any wine enthusiast often will face is "what should go into the cellar?"  In my case, it's facing me directly, as the husband of a good friend of my fiancee is looking at buying a small wine refrigerator (like the one pictured) and putting a case or two of mixed wines into it, and he wants me to help picking the wines.

So I've been mulling it over; what would I use to build a cellar?  I know what I have in my cellar -- Cellartracker tells me that I've currently got on hand 38 bottles of wine, focusing mainly on reds (6 white and 32 red), with the majority of "cellar-worthy" wines coming from the upper end of California (some Diamond Mountain cab, a number of bottles of Stags Leap District cabs), Argentina (three bottles of the best Argentine red I've ever had... that costs under $30!  That'll be a post for another day), and a lot of Bordeaux, focusing on '05.

So, what will I suggest my friend get?

Probably not the same wine I would -- from what I understand, he wants to have wine on hand for drinking on a regular basis, not for long-term storage.

See, there's multiple reasons for having a cellar; I want to (mostly) keep wine for years, he wants to have it for months.  Now, there is some crossover between these two categories (as I certainly have wine for short-term consumption), but the intent of the cellar's owner is surely most important in determining what to put in the cellar.

So, what would I choose for short-term storage?  Wines that are ready to drink now, or at least within a year.  Given a hypothetical 12-bottle cellar for wine, I'd try to include:
  • A bottle of nonvintage Champagne or other good sparkling wine-- it's always good to have something on hand to celebrate with, even if you're just celebrating Tuesday.
  • An Australian Shiraz -- Friendly and fruity, good crowd-pleasers. 
  • Some Pinot Noir -- yes, it's trendy, but it's also versatile.
  • One Rhône red -- A bit more earthy, great for steaks, and undoubtedly adding cachet to a dinner ("Oh, we'll drink French tonight.")
  • A low-oak Chardonnay -- Sometimes, you don't want your wine to taste like oak...
  • An oaky Chardonnay -- ...And sometimes you do.
  • A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc -- Great with seafood, another crowd-pleasing wine.
  • A Washington Merlot -- Some of the best Merlot I've had in recent memory was from Washington state; good value for rich, plummy, cherry wine.
  • Two California Cabernets -- Ideally, both from Napa -- one from the mountains, and one from the valley floor, to allow for the different styles to show off.
  • Two "oddball" wines -- a Torrontés, perhaps, a Carménère, or some Pinotage from South Africa.  A Brunello or Rosso di Montalcino.  Something not within the "normal" varietals.  What's the point in playing it safe all the time?
Now, if I were designing for aging long-term, things would be a bit different.
  • Replace the nonvintage Champagne with something vintage (vintage Champagne is made to age longer).
  • The Shrazes would either become upper-end Aussie wine, or small-appelation Rhône wines (Vacqyras, Gigondas, or Chateaneauf-du-Pâpe).
  • The Pinot would become a Burgundy.
  • The Californian Cabernets would become either upper-end cabs (read: probably overpriced), or ageworthy left-bank Bordeauxes (2003 and 2005's, if they were being bought at retail right now).
  • The Merlot would become a right-bank Bordeaux.
  • The Chardonnay would become a bottle of Montrachet or Mersault, and a bottle of Pouilly-Fuisee or Chablis.  If possible, they'd become Premier or Grand Cru wines from those regions.
  • The Sauvignon Blanc would either become an upper-end Bordeaux blanc, or replaced entirely with a Sauternes or a good German Riesling.
  • A vintage Port would probably appear, if possible.
  • The oddballs would still be oddballs, but now concentrating on areas with age-worthy wines -- Tupungato in Argentina, Stellenbosch/Rustenberg in South Africa, Barolo and Barbaresco in Tuscany.
Of course, there's other ways to plan out a cellar ("I want to get the best wines from [insert-region-here]," or "vertical tastings of [insert-wine-here]," or "horizontal tastings of [region] in [year],"), but for the most part, these two plans would satisfy the desire to either have a bottle on had for most occasions, or to have wine worth aging for a couple of years.

Of course, a better plan is to get a 24-bottle cellar, and mix the two cases!

No comments:

Post a Comment