I'll never forget the feeling of disappointment. On my twenty-first birthday, my uncle had chosen a wine from his cellar harvested in the year of my birth for us to enjoy. After careful decanting, he served it only to realize that the wine was not in good condition. In fact, it was awful. It tasted of oxidation and decay. Years of moving it from one makeshift cellar to another (one damp basement to another) had taken its toll on the wine. All that build-up and years of waiting had culminated in something that was more vinegar than vino.
In general, wine needs to be protected from swings in temperature and humidity, from exposure to sunlight, and from dry corks (the latter is achieved by laying it on its side). Intowine.com has a very complete post on the hows and whys of wine storage.
A recent Washington Post article states, "The wine cellar has become a must-have amenity for high-end homes, much like the home theater and the gym had been."
Unfortunately, my 450-square-foot Manhattan studio has no room for a proper cellar, much less one equipped with, "tasting rooms, cigar-smoking areas, bookshelves, fur rooms, commissioned art, and more."
So what is a wine lover without a huge collection or a $100,000 budget to do?
You have options:
- Buy wine from a reputable store that has back vintages and stores their wine properly. The Italian Wine Merchants in New York is extraordinary in their care of the wine and selection of Italian wines that date to the middle of last century.
- Get an inexpensive home cellar. This is one of my favorites: Wine Enthusiast 50-Bottle Wine Refrigerator
- Store your wine off-site. The back pages of any wine magazine list wine-storage services. There is usually a per-case and per-month fee. Check out the facilities first for conditions and safety.
- Take a class with Dr. Vino. Brilliant and prolific wine blogger Tyler Coleman (aka "Dr. Vino," a real doctor) will be teaching classes on how to collect and cellar wines on September 29 at the University of Chicago and three Tuesdays starting September 25 at New York University. For more information visit drvino.com.
About the author: Joe Campanale is a sommelier at New York City's Babbo and is the food and wine editor at Debonair Magazine. Joe is a Certified Wine Educator, Certified Sommelier, and is pursuing his master's degree in Food Studies at New York University.