Our group sommelier reveals his tips and tricks for building your own
Wine Cellar 101: how to start building your home collection
Gone are the days of wine cellars tucked away and reserved for an elite few. Rather, they have become increasingly popular and accessible for at-home entertaining, where a steady collection of wine at your disposal comes in quite handy. But where do you even begin? Read on for insights from our group sommelier…
Arnaud Bardary, Black Sheep Restaurants
Building your collection will be founded upon personal preferences in the beginning, but an insider tip is to ensure you have wines for every occasion: an aperitif, a barbeque, celebrations. Based on what you like the most, try to cover all variations: sparkling, white, red and something sweet.
You will want to start with some easy-drinking whites and reds for unexpected moments, such as Beaujolais, Rias Baixas from Spain, Muscadet and Rieslings from Eden Valley. There are multitudes of wines in this category, but these are fabulous examples of everyday wines upon which to start building your collection. A strong selection of daily wines is extremely important as your go-tos whenever friends stop in for an afternoon drink or aperitif. The essence of building a wine cellar is being able to share the experience with loved ones at any given moment, so these will serve as your foundation for those.
Once you have covered your bases, you can move onto mid-range wines. These will evolve year after year, so even though they have higher price points they are a good investment into your cellar. Good examples are Champagne, a beautiful Sancerre, communal appellations of Burgundy and Brunello di Montalcino. With these wines, you will be able to draw from an impressive array that is still accessible to your guests.
As a wine cellar is also something to take pride in and develop, you will want to dedicate some time (and money) to high-end wines. These could be reflections of celebrations or landmarks to the muses that inspire happiness, such as the birth of a family member or anniversaries. These wines should act as icons to moments, to be remembered and cherished years later once matured in tandem with what they represent. Think about a bottle of wine that marks the beginning of a relationship, to be opened privately with a loving couple on the eve of their wedding ceremony. Or more simply, bottles to share with fellow enthusiasts and wine connoisseurs once they reach their peak, such as vintage port, premium Bordeaux or Barolo, anything that is from the most iconic estate in its respective region.
Another tip? A rule of three. I always recommend buying no less than three bottles of each variation so as to avoid being ‘out of stock’ once you have opened and enjoyed a bottle with friends and family. The purpose of a wine cellar is to have a steady stream of choices. Remember to keep an eye on the ageing of the wine, as some will take longer to mature and others will need to be opened sooner. Having more than one bottle from more than one harvest allows you greater freedom to engage with your selection. The most difficult thing is resisting the temptation to open what needs to be kept for longer!
Building your own cellar is a long process, it takes many years to select your best wines. Be patient. You will constantly find new wines to add or discover gaps in one region or country that appeal to you. Your tastes will mature much like the bottles in your wine cellar, so be open to trying and investing in wines. Most importantly, wine is meant to be shared and appreciated so whatever you do, remember to make use of the collection you create.
Quick storage tips:
Bottles should always be stored horizontally and with a constantly regulated temperature: as close to 15 degrees celsius as possible, in a slightly humid environment. If you do not have access to an underground space (does anyone in Hong Kong?), wine fridges are an easily accessible alternative. If neither option is available, you can just as effectively use wooden cases covered in material to maintain the wines’ temperature. When I was younger and starting to build my own collection, I would store these wooden cases in my wardrobe!