Last week I wrote about the preliminaries of starting a personal wine cellar. This week I would like to get specific on what to put in the cellar. First, I think we need to define what a personal wine cellar is and what it means to own and to maintain one. A wine cellar can be a place simply to deposit wine bottles for immediate or near-term consumption or it can be a place for long-term aging as part of the cellar plan. Let's look at some of the selections for each situation:
Immediate or short-term consumption — When we speak of immediate or short-term consumption we are talking about today to about three years. I know this sounds arbitrary, but one has to decide where to think about time as it relates to cellaring wine, and putting a general time frame for a cellar works pretty well. When I give you the following specific list, understand two major points: This is not an all-inclusive list and, also, I am selecting from different price levels.
Dry white wines for short-term consumption would include but not be limited to Oregon pinot gris and viognier, white Bordeaux, most Spanish white wines such as alberino, and a host of other white wine sitting at above 12 percent alcohol and selling for under about $15. I know this is a broad range but unless the white wines are very complex and concentrated white wines destined for the cellar, the chances are that the wine will not increase in quality with age over five years from vintage date.
Sweeter white wines — Thankfully, some of the sweeter (for example) German Rieslings can age for quite some time. If you hit upon the higher end auslese wines from the better vintages, these bad boys can go on for many years, if stored well.
Rosé wine — With the exception of a very few rosé wines, look at maximum three years from vintage date. Rosés are purchased for their freshness and fruit.
Lighter red wines — Wine such as many of the Beaujolais, Valpolicella, Bardolino and many of the California zinfandels are meant to be consumed within five years of vintage date. Just because a wine is a red wine does not at all mean that it will age well. I cannot tell you how many cellars I have evaluated where so many red wines had gone over the hill from being left far too long in the cellar. There are not many, as a rule of thumb, red wines sitting under $15 which would be destined for long-term cellaring.
Long-term red wine cellaring — Of course, this could be a 40-page thesis but the main issue is to seek good, professional advice on what to cellar for longer than five years. My recommendations include good vintages of the following red wines: French Burgundy, French Bordeaux, northern and southern Rhones, Italian Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico Riserva, taurasi, Amarone and just about any higher-end red wines from Arnaldo Caprai.
The Spanish wines are profound as well with Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Vega Sicilia and a host of other wonderful, full-bodied red wines. Portuguese reds including Dao and the profound, beautifully crafted ports are essential for the cellar. In the New World we have, among others, Oregon pinot noir, Washington state Walla Walla wines and the wonderful, powerful reds from northern California including, naturally, the tremendous Napa cabernets. We are also seeing from Australia wonderful shiraz, from Argentina and Chile a host of broodingly dark, lovely cellar-destined reds.
Obviously, this is just a small sample of the profound red wines made in the world of wine but, once again, create a good relationship with a wine professional and see what a wonderful path this can be for you and in building a fine, enjoyable cellar.
Lorn Razzano is former owner of the Wine Cellar in Ashland and works there part time. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.