What wine lover doesn’t dream about having her own wine cellar? Being able to uncork a great bottle of wine whenever the mood strikes is high on the personal wish lists of many oenophiles. For most wine lovers, however, the cost of such luxury may seem way out of range. But it doesn’t have to be.
Learning to properly store wine is easy and there are plenty of good quality budget wines on the market. Custom wine cellars are within the reach of just about any wine lover willing to do some research and roll up their sleeves.
Purchasing Wines: What Should You Buy?
Before starting your wine cellar, sit down and make a list of wines you’d like to include. Choose wines that you’ll drink soon after you buy them, as well as some you can store. Include wines that you may want to have on hand when company shows up unexpectedly and wines for special occasions, like good Champagne.
Below are tips for buying different types of wine:
- Red wines: In general, red wines tend to take well to storage, but not all of them. If you’re not sure which varieties will store well, ask the staff at your wine store.
- Sparkling wines: Like red wines, some sparkling wines can be stored for long periods of time, while other should be drunk right away. Choose some budget varieties like Spanish Cava or Prosecco for everyday drinking, and a bottle or two of Champagne for special occasions.
- White wines: Because they’re less acidic than red wines, white wines don’t tend to store and age well. Only purchase white wines you’ll be able to drink within 12 to 18 months of buying.
Purchasing Wines: Building a Wine Cellar on a Budget
Although wines can be expensive, there are ways to make building custom wine cellars more affordable. Looking for sales and educating yourself about what’s up-and-coming are great ways to score bargains. Here are a few other ideas for building your dream wine cellar without going broke:
- Internet wine clubs: Wine clubs are a great way to learn about new wines and discuss what you should include in your cellar. They’re also a great way to buy wine at a discount.
- Purchasing by the case: Whenever possible, purchase wines by the case. Nearly all wine shops offer a case discount, sometimes up to 20 percent a bottle. Many shops will allow you to purchase a “mixed case,” allowing you to get the discount without purchasing 12 bottles of the same wine.
- Wine auctions: If there’s an expensive bottle of wine that you simply must have, consider bidding on it at an auction rather than buying it at a store. Auctions are great ways to add some real gems to your wine cellar at great prices. Before placing your bid, however, make sure to find out how much the bottle you’re after is really worth. Some wine auctions will also allow you to sell wines from your collection.
Proper Wine Storage: What Do You Really Need?
In spite of the way they make it look in the movies, storing wine properly really isn’t rocket science. On the most basic level all you need are some shelves for horizontal stacking and an environment away from sunlight that maintains a temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit ( /- five degrees) all year long. Also consider the following when developing your wine cellar:
- Building your own storage area: If you have a basement in your house and live in a region of the country that is relatively cool for part of the year you may already have the perfect place to build a wine cellar. But before you rush to put up shelving, get yourself an outdoor thermometer and prepare to take some readings over the course of a few months. If the temperature in the area you want to build maintains 55 degrees at different times of year go ahead and build. If the temperature tends to get higher during the summer, try building a simple enclosure using insulating materials from the hardware store.
- Wine cooling units: If you’re a wine lover living in an apartment or a warm region of the country, you might want to consider buying a wine cooling unit. While there are expensive wall models used to cool entire rooms, there are also refrigerator-type units that come in several sizes and are quite affordable. Prices for these range from around $99 for a 12-bottle unit to around $600 for a model that holds up to 75 bottles.
- Wine storage kits: If you don’t like the idea of repurposing the steel shelves in the garage to store your wine collection, there are many attractive, do-it-yourself kits for wine cellars. These generally include all the materials you’ll need to build eye-catching, wooden wine storage units along with instructions.
Calling in the Professionals: Custom Wine Cellars
If doing it yourself isn’t really your thing, professional services are available that both build custom wine cellars and help clients purchase wines to fill them. And while such services do seem to fall outside the realm of “budget,” you can use professionals selectively. If you really need advice on how and where to build your wine cellar, ask if you can purchase a couple hours of a professional’s time to come and look at your home and give recommendations.
On a similar note, hiring a sommelier for a few hours to give you guidance on which wines to purchase for your wine cellar may cost you a couple hundred dollars, but the advice she gives you will last a lifetime.