Collecting Wine: Tips from a Chef

Photo from It's Holly

A few more thoughts about collecting and cellaring wine:

  • Wine is best kept in the dark.  While incandescent or fluorescent lights seems to have no effect over the short term, long term exposure to light can affect the quality of wine especially whites and sparkling wines.  In France a lot of work has been done on the effect of ultra violet rays on Champagne.  Apparently in certain circumstances ultraviolet can lead to the creation of hydrogen sulfide, which gives off an odor similar to rotten eggs or cabbage.  The condition is known as gout de lumiere.
  • Let wine rest in the cellar, especially precious old wines, after they’ve been transported.  Active motion seems to “stir things up” and subtleties can be lost.  A fragile old beauty may need a rest of 2 or more weeks before it’s opened.

  • Although attractive shelving can be beautiful in a cellar, I prefer to leave bottles in their case.  Cardboard cases are good insulators and bottles are protected even better when wrapped in newspaper.  Both of these help maintain constant temperature and keep out the light.
  • Wine as an investment:  If you are serious enough to build a cellar then it means you have some interest in wines.  For a short time in my life I actually got infatuated with the idea of buying wine, holding it in my cellar for a few years and then selling it at a gigantic (I hoped) profit.  I came to realize that this isn’t why I bought wine.  I bought wine for the love of its flavors and more important my ability to share it with my friends and family.  To see it only for its commercial value demeaned why I came to it in the first place.
  • Collecting more wine than I’ll ever consume:  I have finally resolved this.  I’ve given myself permission to collect as much as I can afford, never to hoard it and share it at every opportunity.  If there is some left over in my cellar when I pass on, then what a wonderful gift to my children and friends!

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