Having a wine cellar adds a world of versatility to your culinary offerings.
While the vast majority of wines are meant to be drunk within a year or so
of purchase, a small percentage of the world’s top wines need anywhere from
three or four years to three or four decades to reach their peak of maturity.
The problem is, by the time these wines are ready you won’t be able to find
(or afford) them. Hence the need for a cellar.
Meanwhile, a cellar is also an excellent place to store your pantry wines.
These may be your two or three favorite reds and whites that you drink on a
regular basis. Stock up on them while they are available and your cellar will
keep them in tiptop condition, whether you keep them for a week or a year.
Warning: When you start a cellar, you will inevitably start to drink better wine,
and you might just look at that walk-in closet in a different light.—Tim Talevich
No cellar should be without ...
What you put in your cellar is very Whites
much a matter of personal taste, but my Most white wines are made to be
ideal starter cellar would need representa- drunk young and fresh, but there are
tion from among the following. notable exceptions. Indeed, the world’s
best white wines are often drunk far too
soon, before they have had a chance
to show the complexity of which they
• Loire Valley Chenin Blanc.
Savennières, for example, having
great acidity, hits its stride at
about 10 years and can keep
going for many more.
• Riesling. The top wines of Germany
and Alsace are a constant source
of amazement as they mature.
• White Burgundy.
Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault are
a couple of the greats and fine
examples of the ubiquitous
• Barolo. Traditionally made Italian
Barolos can be tannic and acidic
when young. Give them 10 years
plus. If you can’t wait that long,
stock up on Barbaresco, Brunello
di Montalcino, Chianti Classico or
• Bordeaux. The top wines from good
vintages will improve for 10 to 15
years and live for decades more.
• Burgundy. Often underwhelming in
youth, Burgundy can blossom into
ethereal beauties in maturity.
• California and Washington
Cabernet Sauvignons or Bordeaux
blends. The top wines often sell out
quickly upon release, so cellaring is
the way to go.
• Northern Rhône. No cellar is complete without a smattering of noble
Syrahs from Hermitage or Côte Rôtie.
• Rioja and Ribera del Duero.
From Spain, both can begin to
taste remarkably like Bordeaux
after 15 years or so.
Vintage port can take 20 or more
years to reach early maturity and go on
for decades more, while Madeira can outlast us all. Sauternes only gets richer and
more exquisite as the decades pass. And
Champagne, noted for its freshness and
finesse in youth, can develop a wonderful
nutty richness in middle age.—TT