A Cellaring Primer
With all the talk of the 2005 vintage in Bordeaux, this is probably a good time to discuss a few strategies for collecting wine. Because the truth of the matter is this: While buying a few bottles to lay down can potentially be one of the most rewarding things a wine lover does (aside from drinking Gaja Barbaresco on someone elseâ€™s nickel), it can also be the most heartbreaking.
Thereâ€™s nothing worse than opening a bottle that has been staring out at you from its shelf in the cellar for the past decade, only to discover that itâ€™s flawed. And whatever that flaw may beâ€”corkage, old age, oxidation, whateverâ€”the fact remains that youâ€™ll likely find yourself almost frighteningly upset.
The sad truth, however, is that all wine collectors should expect this: It happens to the best of us.
But youâ€™re not powerless here, and you can hedge your bets.
First, make sure you store your wines in the proper conditions: As close to 55-degrees as possible, in an appropriately humid atmosphere, away from vibrations and direct sunlight. There are some great cellars out there for a few hundred dollarsâ€”you can pick them up at Costco or Samâ€™s Club, for exampleâ€”but just make sure that theyâ€™re vibration-free and humidity-controlled units. A dried-out cork and shaken-not-stirred bottles of wine do not make for terribly rewarding drinking.
Sometimes, however, the wines are D.O.A. And unfortunately, thereâ€™s no way to know before you open them. So in order to avoid the inevitable heartbreak of opening a flawed bottle 20 years after you bought it, make sure you buy duplicates of the wines you intend to lay down. Get other people involved, too: Itâ€™ll give you both something to look forward to, and it serves as a much-needed insurance policy. In my case, whenever I find a wine thatâ€™s age-worthy, I buy two bottles: One for me and one for my father. He does the same thing. Weâ€™re hedging our bets against the vagaries of Bacchus.
And if both bottles are good, itâ€™s merely a bonus.