Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wine Cellars

In his comments on an earlier posting, Bob raised some interesting but tough questions about knowing when to drink wines from one's cellar and also about starting a wine cellar. The truth is that one can't know exactly when a cellar-worthy wine is mature or at its peak. This is not only because one doesn't always know how a bottle of wine was stored prior to purchase or the exact effect of one's cellar conditions on the wine's evolution. It is also because different people have different standards for a wine's maturity. Some people prefer (well-aged) wines that have lost most of their youthful qualities, while others consider such wines, which lack the vigor of their youth, to be relics. Many books on wine will provide rough guidelines for the maturation of different kinds of wines or what might be called "windows of opportunity" for drinking them. Yet one thing that for me is fascinating about wine is: particular bottles do not always conform to these guidelines. I have had superb wines from our cellar that should have been over the hill; unfortunately I have also had wines that were falling apart when they should have been at their peak.

I've always thought that a wine cellar should basically contain wines that require some aging. This will exclude many if not most of the wines that are available in the marketplace, since they are at or close to their peak when purchased. Of those wines that benefit from being cellared and aged, which ones should be selected to start one's cellar is really a matter of personal taste. But in my case (and I infer also from the experience of others) this presents another pitfall of having a wine cellar. Because my tastes changed 5 or 10 years after starting a cellar, I found myself with many wines I no longer liked. I also realized years later that I had missed the boat on wines I wished were in the cellar.


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