1) Thou shalt not kill. If you’re planning to keep wine at home for anything more than a couple of years, you need to give serious thought to where and how it is stored, otherwise you could ruin it. More of that in a future post, but for now, it’s the do’s and don’t’s of cellar etiquette.
2) Never buy a wine you don’t like. Try to taste any wine you’re thinking of buying in quantity, even if it has the pundits raving. If it doesn’t hit the right spots, then just say ‘no’.
3) Don’t buy too much. Resist wine merchants’ ‘vintage of the century’ propaganda, and buy in sensible quantities. Otherwise you’re going to run short of a) space, b) money for other pleasures, and c) lifetime in which to polish off your stash. Similarly…
4) Stock-take. If you’re drinking mostly Burgundy and buying mostly Bordeaux, you’ll eventually encounter stock flow problems. Every six months, check your supplies and adjust your drinking/purchasing patterns accordingly.
5) There will always be another vintage. You missed out on the superb 2005 clarets/Burgundies/whatever (strike out as applicable). But guess what? The 2001 clarets/2002 Burgundies/2003 whatever were also rather good. No vintage is unmissable.
6) Don’t forget those whites. Red wines are generally more cellar-worthy than whites. However white wines from several cooler regions around the world don’t object to bottle age, and many Sauternes, Burgundies and northern Rhône whites, plus Rieslings from almost anywhere, positively thrive on it. If in doubt, …
7) Experiment. Ten year old Muscadet, twenty year old Beaujolais, thirty year old semi-sweet Loire rosé… Yes, I’ve had them all, and found some not just ‘interesting’, but actively enjoyable. Strange things happen to wine over time, not all of them positive, but you should reserve a small corner in the cellar for experimental purposes. However…
8) Too soon is better than too late. Not all wines can survive twenty years in the cellar, and most will be fading at age 5. So don’t resist that urge to pull the corks on bottles whose progress you’re interested in. If the wine seems too young, just jiggle it about in a decanter for a while and it’ll probably come out of its shell. However, if it’s too old, you’re stuffed. More salad dressing anyone?
9) It’s there to be drunk. Some wines in your cellar may accrue in value. Resist the temptation to sell them. You hear some people say, ‘Ooh, this wine’s gone up so much in price, I really can’t afford to drink it.’ You never hear them say, ‘Ooh, this house costs so much now, I really can’t afford to live here.’ You made a fortunate investment, now enjoy it.
10) Give and it will be given to you (Luke 6:38). Your precious hoard is there to be shared, even with wine plebs. So offer Lieb-loving Auntie Mabel a taste of grand cru Burgundy, and don’t wince too obviously if cousin Kevin mixes your 1990 Barolo with Red Bull. Just mutter under your breath, ‘Serendipity, serendipity,…’ then patiently await the day when one of them wins the lottery and develops a passion for pricey Pomerol.