Text by Robert Whitley
The COVID-19 lockdown blues have inspired many a hobbyist in recent months. I’ve noticed scores of friends have taken up baking to cope. The run on all-purpose flour in my neighborhood market was real.
Not everyone’s a baker, however. It’s time-consuming, and the measurements have to be precise.
If baking is not your thing, perhaps you should consider starting a wine cellar. For one thing, wine is plentiful these days. There’s even a reported glut of champagne. And starting a cellar isn’t as difficult as you might imagine.
A beginner’s cellar needn’t be fancy. A closet will do. My first cellar was in a bedroom closet, where I stacked wine boxes on their sides. What’s important is a dark space that is free of wild temperature swings. The cooler the better, but refrigeration is not absolutely necessary if the temp is stable. Age-worthy wines will mature more quickly in a warm space, but they won’t spoil.
Over time, I added wooden wine racks. You can find inexpensive racks online.
As I took a deeper dive into wine collection, I added refrigerated wine cabinets that I stored in the garage. That’s where I tend to keep the wines I would rather not open until they are close to peak maturity, sometimes 10 to 15 years for the bigger reds.
Refrigerated wine cabinets can be purchased online, too.
But, you say, you often purchase a wine that you intend to age, but you end up drinking it before it’s ready. This is a common problem, and it halts many promising wine cellars in their tracks. There’s an easy fix.
The trick for me was to have a stockpile of inexpensive wines that are easy to drink to serve on an everyday basis. This lessened the temptation to dip into my closet “cellar” and pull out the good stuff for pizza or leftovers. Before I knew it, my stock of the good stuff outgrew the closet, forcing me to acquire the wooden racks.
Not long after that, I was ordering a refrigerated wine cabinet for the garage. And just like that, I had a bona fide wine collection and a first-class process for cellaring my wines. You’re welcome!
Vina Eguia 2018 Tempranillo, Rioja DOC, Spain. This easy-drinking red from Spain’s Rioja region is perfect for summer barbecues and savory tapas. It is 100 percent tempranillo, shows ripe red fruits on the palate, and shows a touch of oak vanillin and wood spice on the nose. Serve it slightly chilled if you like. It’s easy on the wallet, too.
Domaine de la Vigne Romaine 2018 Moulin-a-Vent AOC, France.
If you’ve ever wondered whether cru Beaujolais is worth the additional cost, the answer is yes. This stunning vintage from Domaine de la Vigne Romaine is opulent by Beaujolais standards and delivers a beautiful bouquet of wild flowers and freshly crushed berries. It has impressive depth and weight on the palate, is beautifully balanced and is ready to drink now.
La Crema 2018 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast.
This winery has long been known for value, and this vintage of its Sonoma Coast pinot noir is a great example. Modestly priced but ambitiously crafted, it delivers layered aromas of cherry and pomegranate, a subtle note of oak spice and beautifully integrated tannins.
Schramsberg 2017 Blanc de Blancs, North Coast.
This vintage blanc de blancs from the iconic Napa Valley sparkling wine house is 100 percent chardonnay. It shows notes of crisp green apple and lemon, a hint of bread dough and a fresh, lively mousse. In other words, it’s another winner from Schramsberg, which pioneered sparkling wine in the valley.
Vallado 2018 Douro DOC, Portugal.
Dry red table wine from the Douro Valley may seem odd to lovers of sweet port wine, yet the phenomenon continues to grow. Quinta do Vallado is one of the best in the game, and this offering is a beautifully structured, well-balanced blend of grapes that are typically used in port production. It’s a savory wine that shows notes of blueberry and black cherry, with supple tannins and a long, impressive finish.