The Happy Cellar Dweller

One thing that books and courses on winemaking never seem to teach is how to build up a good cellar of home-made wine. If you're like most home winemakers, you always seem to be drinking the last bottle of your batch just as it's really perfectly aged. Fear not! It takes much less time and expense than you think. Believe it nor not, to start a very respectable wine cellar, all you need is to make five whites and five reds. It may still take more than a year to complete the cellar, but not an entire lifetime. And after you've established the basics, you can specialize or add extra favourites as you personalize your cellar.

Red and White all Over

First of all, start with these basic whites and reds as the foundation of your wine cellar:

Whites:

  • Rose/Blush (off-dry to medium)
  • Pinot Gris (Grigio)
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Chardonnay
  • Riesling or Gewurztraminer

Reds:

  • Gamay or Pinot Noir
  • Chianti or Valpolicella
  • Barolo or Zinfandel
  • Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot
  • Zindandel or Shiraz

These are suggestions, but they're not hard and fast rules. If you prefer other wines a lot more, by all means substitute them. It simply won't do if, as host or hostess, you grind your teeth as you pour a wine you're "suppossed" to serve with fish, but don't really like.

Double Your Pleasure

If you're making the wine yourself or at a U-Vint store, this is where you do some planning. It's also where you'll take some time, but it won't be more than a year or so before you've got at least a few wines properly aged and ready. And you'll be able to drink some wines younger during that time, so you won't be deprived.

How do you calculate how much to make? There's a mathy, more complicated way, and a way that's a little easier. The easy way is jut to make double batches every time you make wine. Put one batch in your cellar, properly bottled and labeled for ageing, and keep the other out to drink over several months. If you follow this simple plan, you should be able to salt away at least six batches to age in your cellar through one year.

The more precise way is a calculation, using these steps:

1. First decide how much wine you'll use in the upcoming year. Inlude everything from daily glasses at dinner to special occasions like birthdays, surprise visits from friends, parties on the weekend, gifts, and so on. As an example, let's say this number averages to three bottles per week.

2. Multiply that weekly consumption by 52, for each week in the year. In our example above, the total would be 156.

3. Add 15-20% for unexpected wine emergencies. Even if you've thought of everything, unexpected needs will always occur. So in our case, you'd add 25-30 bottles. Rounding that total to 180 bottles, this is equivalent to about six 23-litre batches per year.

4. Now make twice that yearly expected consumption, ideally within one or two months, or at least in as short a period as possible. As you finish these 12 batches, put half of them away in your cellar, and leave them there to age. The other batches can be drunk as you would normally have consumed them.

Not quite as complicated as you imagined, is it? It just takes planning, as you decide on your initial basic wines, and work out how much to make. Then it's simply a matter of scheduling your batches. There'll be some initial outlay, financially, but from that point on, you can replenish the cellar at a more leisurely pace. And say breezily, when somthing arises unexpectedly, "Oh, I've got just the wine for that".