Noun: A room below ground level in house, often used for storing wine or coal.
Hands up if your house has a cellar or basement? Thought not.
We’re no longer in the era of Downtown Abbey where Victorian homes of aristocrats have huge cellars stocked with bottles of wine. The cellar is not a common feature of Australian buildings or homes and access to wine is no longer limited to the rich upper class. Yet the art of storing wine for future enjoyment is something that we’ve inherited from our predecessors.
Why? Because it can be hugely rewarding.
A bottle of wine is like a capsule of history that is intrinsically entwined with a sense of time and place. The terroir, vintage conditions and winemaker’s choices all play their part and will influence not just the initial nuances of a wine but will continue to compel evolutionary transformations.
Unearthing the complex characters of the wine is what makes it so intriguing but it is not just the wine that changes and transforms. There is something personal and deeply satisfying about opening a bottle that you’ve painstakingly resisted the urge to drink and kept for a special occasion. Opening an aged bottle brings memories flooding back, allowing for an opportunity to reminisce and reflect about what you were doing or who you might have been the year the wine was made or purchased.
For example it’s common to have new parents visit our Margaret River cellar door to purchase a Magnum of wine from the birth year of their child. The wine is kept safe until the child is of legal drinking age and opened at a time for the whole family to enjoy and share a moment in time that defines a journey for both the parents and their child.
So what’s the best way to cellar a wine in today’s modern age?
Well first up it takes commitment. The YOLO generation loves things here and now, but cellaring wine goes against the grain. You have to be prepared to do your research, take care of the bottles by maintaining optimal conditions and accept that you won’t always get the drinking window right. Here’s our top tips:
Not all wine is created equally and cellaring wine will not make an average wine extraordinary. Do your research, speak to cellar door staff, wine store owners, friends and family or refer to what’s known as ‘Australia’s Wine Bible’ – The Halliday Australian Wine Companion. Look for wines that have been created with aging in mind and have a track record of cellaring.
The vision for Howard Park has always been guided by a simple philosophy – to make wines of elegance, balance and longevity, without compromise, from the finest fruit. Our tasting notes will always indicate how long we predict the wine will cellar.
Keep it Cool
And dark. Keeping your wines in optimal conditions is pivotal to success. Ideally somewhere around 12-15 degrees is perfect and certainly below 17. The wines need to be in a vibration-free environment, temperatures need to be kept stable and a relative humidity of around 75% is ideal.
There are plenty of in-home wine storage options on the market such as Vintec wine fridges or there are a number of professional off-site storage companies that are particularly good if you think that temptation might get the better of you.
Or if you get completely bitten by the wine bug then there are so many awe-inspiring examples of custom made cellars. We got so inspired we started our own pinterest board!
Need some wine cellar inspiration? Visit our Pinterest page here.
Keep it organised.
It’s unlikely that you would have your very own Carson (to use the Downtown Abbey reference again) on hand to maintain detailed wine books but it is a good idea to keep track. There are apps like Vivino or Delectable or you can do it the old-fashioned way with pen and paper. You’ll want to record what stock you have and when to drink them. There are many suggestions on the best way to do this but in the Howard Park Wine Cellar we tend to separate by variety (red, white & sparkling) and country, using tags that are attached to the neck of the wine with name of wine, vintage, region and the year it should be drunk.
Another good tip is to cellar your wine if you can in multiples. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a dozen of the same wine as it’s great to have diversity in your cellar, but having more than one bottle of a particular wine eases the pressure of trying to decide when is the perfect moment to pop that cork or screw open that cap. A superb Chardonnay will be a rewarding but quite different experience when opened 5 years from vintage compared to 10 – if you have the chance to enjoy both options it will deepen your understanding of the wine, and maybe also help you to realise your ultimate preferences in just how mature you like your special wines to be, so that you don’t leave them in the cellar past their optimum window to offer you maximum enjoyments and reward for your efforts.
All sound too hard basket? Then join our wine club for access to limited quantities of museum wines that we have cellared in optimum conditions.