Often times I get asked about how to store/keep wine. The basic logic behind cellaring wine is to allow a good wine that is still tannic to mature and change. Some wines get released ready to drink, most whites (Sauvignon Blancs being a notable regular exception) and a great many “light” reds fall into this category. A Beaujolais Superior for example is often times meant to be drank right away and not cellared as it will gain little from more time in the cellar. But then there a good many that will greatly improve upon “laying down” for a year, maybe 10. This is where it gets challenging.
Let’s take some Canadian Mertitages for example, what I call Canuck Bordeauxs. A Meritage is a blended red that is made in a similar style to the very popular French Bordeauxs. Bordeauxs tend to have a blend of some of the following: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Carmenere, and depending on which part of the region will often times dictate which grape is dominant. In Canada the typical blend is with just the big three Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot though some winemakers may add in some other varieties. So what does this all have to do with Cellaring you ask? Well a good Canadian Meritage will require time to mature in the bottle (as do most Bordeauxs) and to add to it’s complexity. The tannins and sugars in the blends will over time work with the little bit of air exposure to alter the wine.
Cellaring comes in to play to give that wine the proper atmosphere in which to allow this magical process to happen. An ideal wine cellar is cool and damp’ish. By cool we are talking 10 to 14 degrees celcius (50 to 57 F) with moderate humidity. The humidity keeps the corks from drying out and therefore allows it to keep it’s seal. Light is not a good ingredient which makes basements and “caves” good locations for cellars as they will have little light, good moisture and cooler temperatures. “So then what about condos CWG?” you say? Easy enough, you cannot put your wine in a cave or in a basement so you will need to buy or build something to do what a cellar does. For those with condos bigger then the average freehold house you could build a small room by using excess space in a large room or have it designed into your floor plan. The size of a room will depend on your expected size of your collection. For the rest of us we are given few choices outside of appliances. Now do not fool yourself into thinking that small 12 bottle wine chilling fridge at your local “big box” retailer is a cellar. It is no more then what it calls itself, a wine chiller.
Wine cellaring appliances come in many shapes, designs and styles. What you choose will depend on budget, preferences (style features) and the expected size of your collection. Often called Wine Refridgerators, a good wine cellar appliance will offer wooden racking, light protection and in some cases multiple temperature zones. I personally have a wine fridge made by Transtherm, it is the Castel 3 temperature zone 230 bottle “fridge”. The temperatures are split into red serving, cellaring and white serving. Below you can see some pictures taken from we first purchased the fridge over 18 months ago. So why did we choose this fridge over any of the other similar ones made by Vintage Keeper, Le Cache or Euro-Cave? Well word of mouth was one reason; good friends of ours had the Cottage fridge by Transtherm and had experienced nothing but great things. Second was the look, the black smoked glass and casing fit nicely into our historic loft and surrounding furniture. Lastly I really wanted the three temperature zone style fridge and while a few others had multi-zones the best reviews I had heard were directed at the Transtherm. Now fast-forwarding to present day I truly believe that if you are concerned with cellaring primarily, avoid the multi temperature zone fridges, or else just go with a two temperature (white and cellaring). We simply do not use the red-serving area for anything other the cellaring which means we turn off the temperature adjustment portion and that region falls into the cellaring conditions. Overall this product has served us well and it has become a huge conversation piece as well. It is amazing how many times someone has seen the wine fridge and said “wow that is a really nice fridge” which then leads to discussion of wine!
If you are a condo resident looking at starting or helping out your wine collecting, think seriously about investing in an appliance cellar. While the investment is a costly one at first it will prove to be well worth your while long term. Think about it from a logical sense, if you have 50+ bottles at an average cost of $25+/bottle then you need to protect the investment in one form or another. Love your wine and it will love you. Here are some links to manufacturers of wine appliances in case you are interested in browsing the different styles and models:
We bought our fridge from Rosehill Wine Cellars and I found them to be excellent on all fronts, including email support from the owner Gary on tweaking the settings on the fridge. While I try not to push to one vendor or another, I can only speak from experience to say that in the Greater Toronto Area you will be hard pressed to find a better retailer.