ABBY NASH: In this section, we're going to help you maximize your wine investment. No, I'm not talking about speculating on wine. Wine wasn't meant for that. I'm talking about the physical conditions needed for allowing our ready to drink young wines to stay fresh and our keepers to age properly. Let's go into the wine cellar.
Cellaring is a fancy way of saying storage. Wine storage issues including temperature, humidity, light, structural integrity, and insurance. Optimal cellar temperature is a steady 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit or 10 to 16 degrees centigrade with 70% to 80% humidity.
It's very important to avoid frequent and large fluctuations in temperature. This causes pressure changes inside bottles, resulting in corks being pushed out of the bottles. Wines stored at a steady 70 degrees Fahrenheit or 20 centigrade in an apartment's acceptable. But it will mature sooner.
Avoid chronic vibration, especially for delicate pinot noirs. If you live in the Northeast, Northwest, or Upper Midwestern US, chances are your basement is up to the job. In hotter, drier climes, you may need some sort of refrigeration for your cellar.
Air conditioning does not produce enough humidity, which can cause corks to shrink. So a humidifier is needed. Special storage units are made for wine. See the wine publications listed in the resources section for ads for these, computer programs for inventory control, and facilities for storing your wine off-premise.
Wine can be stored in the original boxes if the bottles are laid sideways or upside down. But in a few years, cardboard boxes are likely to deteriorate and could result in a wine cellar avalanche. Wooden boxes, like those used for better Bordeaux, are made for long-term storage, but they're inconvenient to get in and out of.
You'll need a hammer and a screwdriver each time you want a bottle of wine. But if you ever foresee selling these wines, they're worth more in their original boxes. sort of like Barbie dolls. More practical are sturdy storage racks that can be home fabricated or purchased, like these.
During long-term storage, labels may deteriorate. As with other collectibles, wine value is heavily determined by a condition, condition, and condition. So preserving labels is important. Try dusting the bottle with hairspray or slipping the bottles into clear plastic bags.
I recommend insurance if you have enough wine to insure, which is any amount over the standard $100 or $200 deductible plus the yearly insurance premium. Cellar insurance will be written as a rider or floater to an existing renter's or homeowner's policy. But you must itemize and update your inventory every year.
And be sure to arrange for replacement value. Consider taking a video or CD-ROM of your cellar. Keep this along with a printed or computer disk inventory at another site in case, heaven forbid, something happens to your cellar.
Now, that we have a better idea about how to maximize the pleasure we get from wine at home, next we discuss the resources that could help us become savvier wine consumers.
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Join Abby Nash, lecturer in the Hotel School, for the basics of wine appreciation in a 'How To' format. Starting with your basic senses, you'll learn to discern flavor through smell and taste. Moving on, you'll learn the art of buying, serving and storing wines, how to open and preserve wines, manage the restaurant experience, and select wine and food pairings.
This video is part 6 of 10 in the Wine Appreciation series.