How to Start a Wine Cellar

The very idea of a wine cellar conjures up romantic images. A dusty, hidden room full of old vintages; sign me up for that move to a French country home right now. But while wine cellars are all the rage, regularly included in most new home design requests, sometimes they’re about as particular as a pizza oven. Nice daydreaming but a bit of overindulgence. If, however, you want to have more than the 12 to 24 bottles on hand that you’re drinking in the near future, think wine to stash away for years, that wine cellar is a necessity.

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Where to Place Your Wine Cellar

Before you start buying those wines to store away for 5, 10 or more years you need a proper place to keep them. A temperature-controlled spot is a must for any wine that needs to age.

“Wine is a living thing and the quality is affected by the environment and handling,” said Jennifer Ziski who with her husband owns Heritage of Sherborn a full service inn, farm-to-table restaurant, gastro-pub and a provisions store that includes a wine shop.

Ziski recommends storing wine at 55 degrees if it’s intended for aging, but said it can be stored at temperatures as high as 69 degrees without any detrimental effect.

That’s why wine cellars tend to end up in dusty old basements. They have a more consistent climate and are naturally cool, and while most wine cellars will be designed with climate control thanks to our harsh winters and unpredictably hot summers, you could even use a closet in a basement if you have a consistent climate of 55-60 degrees.

start a wine cellar

Wine cellars are usually subterranean for a reason. A few feet beneath the Earth’s surface, the temperature is generally a stable 65 degrees.

How to Stock Your Wine Cellar

After sorting out the space for the wine cellar, it needs stocking.

“You can never have too many, only too few,” Ziski said.

That said; think of the wine in your cellar as an investment. This isn’t wine you’re going to drink right away. You want to research wines that will age well, wines that will both let you try something new and keep your favorites.

“Lucky for us, these days the internet is a valuable tool,” Ziski. “Most wines with age-ability have resources from the producers themselves to let us know the life span of the wine.”

Buy at least three of each wine. It would be a bummer if you only had one, opened it and loved it and it was gone or if you opened one, hated it and were stuck with five more bottles.

start a wine cellar

image: Lisa-Blue

What to Buy

For whites Ziski suggests looking for wines that you like when they are young but that will also age. Think rieslings, burgundy whites and vintage champagnes.

Her picks:

The Falesco Ferentano, a Roscetto from Lazio is amazing with age. It gets that nutty, oxidized flavor rather than a corked quality to it.

The Cogno Anas-Cetta, an indigenous grape from Piedmont that only improves with age.

For reds, cabernet francs, burgundy reds, robust reds and vintage ports are often good but you can never go wrong with a Barolo according to Ziski.

“I love the cycle a Barolo goes through as it ages. I lived in Piedmont in 1997. That was an amazing year for wine. The harvest had to be delayed day after day because each day was more perfect than the one before. Those Barolos drank beautifully when they were first released, but are incredible now, 18 years after their harvest. I think I will open a bottle when my first grandchild is born and it will still be incredible!”