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On Tasting
Starting a Cellar and General Thoughts on Ageing Wines - The Experience of a Hardcore Wine Collector
Monday, 20th August, 2012  - Bob Cottell

Editors note: Bob is a longstanding customer of Glug. In response to Starting a Cellar and General Thoughts on Ageing Wines he sent us this view of his own cellaring experiences.

Hi Glug; I like your view on the value of starting and maintaining a cellar, plus the advantages of not having to shop on the run etc for wine. A cellar in my 30 year experience of collecting wine is now morphing into a different proposition from that which I originally started out.

How times, wine and I have changed during that period, your priorities and needs do in fact evolve with the education that wine provides. Not to mention the joys and disappointments resulting from outlays that were fostered by greed, adventure, ignorance and the sheer gratification of placing some very expensive bottles in the cellar.

On the latter, the cellar in my current and previous 5 houses has always been either a wardrobe in a dull and cold room or fortunately space under the house. These cellars do not in anyway compare with the new groovy products, essentially fridges, specifically designed to store wine at constant temperatures and which graduate in price depending on how many bottles they have the capacity to store. Some of my friends have these products which they proudly display and go on about, yet in many cases I fail to distinguish between the outcome of that cellaring environment and my current cellar which attracts an average of 13 degrees centigrade, whether summer, autumn, winter or spring.

So I think there is a message there for the purists. But back to my story of cellaring, starting some 30 years ago when wines, that is reds, were big in every way, some crude, some refined and some sophisticated, all claiming to cellar 10 plus and in some cases 15-20 years plus cellaring. How times have changed with wine making that much advanced, the oenology and composition and viticulturist practices all better understood as also the complexity of the chemical composition of the noble grape and influences on its behaviour during and after wine making, the result in the bottle. Not to mention the advent of the screw cap which is probably for the purists and ‘cellarist’ such as myself the biggest freebee I have ever received.

The wines I originally started to cellar were the then traditional reliable's, such as Kaiser Stuhl Red Ribbon reds, Wolf Blass (Langhorne Creek), Galway, Redman, Brands, Chateau Tahbilk, Seppelts and Hunter reds (Lakes Folly). Also among the mix were the good old Limestone Ridge, Wynn’s Riddoch and Black label Cab Savs, including their Hermitage (now Shiraz), and the occasional stellar from Macedon being Mount Mary. The point being these even then were expensive and with cork represented prestige but also risks as to cellaring. Yes they were very nice, but quite frankly after 6-8 years they lost their rave factor and instead developed into something along the lines of ‘should have drunk it sooner’ and looks brown, more like port and taste more like port. Nothing has changed really as I continually find that wines, even those with the pedigree to stay the course of 10-15 years are at their very best some 5-8 years after bottling.

Take the challenge, drink a 2006 Wynn’s Black Label Cab Sav and then drink a 1998 same label, you will soon notice the difference, which to my taste is not just about youth but flavour, elegance and structure versus the outcome of age being dull, bland, sometimes bitter and quite frankly pretty boring. Further, when you are a tiny 30 or 40 years of age the future is endless as also the decision to deliberately buy wines to cellar for indefinitely. The harsh reality is when you are 60 cellaring wines for 10 plus years is an extreme risk given you may not be around then and some family member or relative is picking up the pieces in your cellar and disclaiming the contents as ‘bloody awful’.

So from the above, my experience with cellaring wines for one purpose, that is, to see their future development and potential and measure that against the claims of the winemaker and wine pundits has for the most been a tad disappointing. I concur with David’s view that a cellar for Mr Average (or Mr Well off) is simply the basis by which you can at any time pick and choose and as you choose. More so that as we all lead busy work and social lives, time is a precious commodity and it is just so nice to open the door in one’s cellar and ‘hmmm – what will I drink tonight and/or share with friends’. But more importantly this is in recognition of the fact that many wines will comfortably cellar for 5-7 years and indeed they are a pleasure. One other point is that it is nice to come home to a wine cellar, an old and consistent friend that offers variety. After all we don’t want to spend an eternity at Dan’s.

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