Few things are more rewarding than opening a good bottle of wine and enjoying it with friends and family. Wine is, after all, about sharing good times and special occasions. And the easiest way to ensure that you always have a bottle or two of your favourite wine around is to start your own collection.
Being a wine collector is not just about accumulating lots of bottles; it is the act of collecting knowledge about wine and also the opportunity to share wonderful experiences in the future. And while some consumers may buy wines simply for merriment, others expect their collection to ascend in value.
Thus, if becoming an oenophile (a connoisseur of wines) is on your to-do list for the new year, these handy hints could very well help you create a worthy stockpile (not to mention a beautiful decoration for your home).
Where to store your wine
There is something truly exhilarating about stepping down into your own wine cellar and retrieving a bottle to open with friends. But if your home does not present such an amenity, you can still enjoy a fine wine collection.
One of the latest trends is vertical wine cellars wrapped around a cylindrical opening beneath your floorboards. This design, created from engineered concrete, allows for the storage of about 1,900 bottles of wine without compromising on square footage. The in-home installation process takes a few days to install, but is definitely worth the waiting time.
Wine coolers are another option, as they are specifically designed to maintain a consistent temperature. Units vary in terms of decoration, materials and size; and the more upmarket versions even have multiple temperature zones, which is perfection if you want to keep your reds at one temperature and your whites at a cooler, more ready-to-drink level.
Whichever option you prefer, ensure that your wine storage is a cool, dark and damp place. Light, especially sunlight, poses a problem for long-term storage.
The perfect temperature and humidity
The perfect temperature for your wine collection (both red and white) is between 12.7°C and 14.4°C. While wine tends to age quite rapidly when it exceeds 21°C, it does not mature effectively below 10°C.
The theory goes that dry air will dry out those wine corks, which would let air into the bottle and spoil the wine. Conversely, extremely damp conditions can promote mould. This won’t affect a properly sealed wine, but can damage the labels.
Thus, listen to conventional wisdom and keep those bottles stored at a humidity level of 55 – 75%. Using a hygrometer in your storage area is key and, if necessary, adding a humidifier or dehumidifier to alter the humidity of the room when necessary.
How to place your bottles
Wine bottles have traditionally been stored on their sides in order to keep the liquid up against the cork, which keeps it from drying out and also looks quite striking in terms of decoration. But if you’re planning on drinking those wines in the very near future, or the bottles have alternative closures (screw caps, glass or plastic corks), packing them sideways is not necessary.
And let’s not forget sparkling wine and champagne: these bubbling beauties can be kept either upright or horizontally, for their corks are much bigger than ordinary wines’ and, thus, compressed much more.
TIP: With sparkling wine or champagne, the glass should always be filled nearly to the top – and ‘tulip’ or ‘flute’ glasses should be used for their tall, thin and graceful shapes. The tall glass accentuates the bubbles, and enjoying champagne is partly visual, partly scent, and partly taste – don’t ignore the visual part.
Storing and serving different wines
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can keep both white- and red wines for as long as you please. It all comes down to the quality of the wine; Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the best-aging wines and can be stored for 7 – 10 years, while a Sauvignon Blanc shouldn’t be kept for longer than 2 years.
Red, on the other hand, can go for multiple years if you abide by the ideal temperature- and humidity readings.
Serving your wines is also another important matter in terms of distinction: light, fruity red wines should be served between 14 and 17°C, while full-bodied and more mature red wines are ideal between 16 and 20°C.
For full-bodied white wines, we recommend a serving temperature of 10°C – 16°C. But for light and dry white wines, as well as rosé and sparkling wines, 7°C – 10°C is perfect.
Which snacks for which wines?
Keep both taste and decoration in mind when combining snacks and wines. Red wine pairs perfectly with fruits such as berries and red grapes, while white wine’s flavour is brought out with lighter fruits like green grapes, pineapples and melon.
Dark chocolate that contains at least 60% cocoa goes especially well with fuller-bodied red wines like Merlot and Shiraz. Milk chocolate pairs beautifully with Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese, while white chocolate tastes best with lighter wines like Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé.
And when it comes to cheese, you can assemble a great cheese platter with many different kinds – they will all taste great with wine. For some variety, be sure to include hard-aged cheese like parmesan or aged cheddar, medium cheeses such as mild cheddar and Swiss, and soft cheeses like brie and camembert.
For sparkling wine and champagne, you can treat your taste buds with some delectable seafood hors d’oeuvres: caviar, shrimp, crab, and oysters.
Choosing “your” wine
Even if your main goal is to have a fully stacked wine cellar, you have to start somewhere. Begin by trying wines from some of the major wine regions of the world to understand what your palate likes, such as Napa Valley Cabernets, Cape Town Chardonnays, or Tuscan Merlots.
Continue your search by reading about different regions and attending local tasting events. If you’re seeking a particular wine, search for it online. Also ask your favourite restaurant where they purchase theirs, or visit local vineyards.
Before you know it, you’ll have the start of a grand collection.