Wine editor MARY DOWEY discusses the luxury of building a small wine cellar at home and why a MINI-COLLECTION of around 20 wines is WELL WORTH ASSEMBLING …
Strange as it may seem for a person obsessed with tracking down delicious wines, I don’t have a luxury cellar. A treasure trove of the best classed growth Bordeaux, grand cru Burgundy and prestige cuvée champagne is an alluring notion until arithmetic kicks in: icon wines have become so fearsomely expensive that I’d rather travel halfway round the world or buy a decent painting than invest in a few stratospherically priced bottles.
But I view the cache of relatively modest wines kept in the coolest part of our house as a luxury in itself. I love adding to it (sometimes choosing wacky newcomers, sometimes sticking to favourite classics) almost as much as I love taking from it – plucking something enticing from the rack half an hour before dinner.
Although I try to keep 50-60 bottles on hand – a tiny cellar by serious standards – even a mini-collection of around 20 is well worth assembling. Provided that it’s nicely varied it should cope with most eventualities – Sunday lunch, impromptu dinner, return of prodigal son, girls’ night in – sparing countless last-minute dashes to the nearest wine shop. Obviously you should buy styles that you enjoy. My stalwarts are champagne, sherry, Riesling, white Burgundy, red Loire and red Rhône with a good splash of Spain and Italy from up-and-coming whizzkids.
Just make sure that you find a reliably cool, dark place for your hoard. When exposed to warmth and light wines can deteriorate at alarming speed, making kitchens one of the very worst places for storage. Unless, of course, you have a snazzy wine fridge – although these too have their drawbacks: the small ones are easily outgrown when the collecting habit takes hold while the large ones cost as much as an ocean of decent wine. My dad used to stash a few bottles under the bed in an icy spare bedroom. Not as daft as it sounds.
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