A Practical Wine Room

After more than 30 years collecting and storing wine, I have settled on a practical solution to what constitutes a reasonable wine collection, even for someone with lots of room to spare. The collection consists of approximately 120 - 150 bottles, and takes into consideration the following principles:

1. The best reason for a wine cellar is to have readily at hand the type of wine you want at the moment you want it.

2. The second consideration is to buy by the case at the time it is initially released to lower your cost.

3. The third consideration is to have available those wines which will be most appealing to your guests, and/or will compliment the type of food you serve.

4. The fourth reason is to allow immature but high-potential wines to mature under your own controlled climatic conditions.

5. The last consideration is to recognize how wine patterns around the world have changed. For instance, for me, with few exceptions, the California wineries now eclipse the French in excellence. New wineries in Australia and Chile cannot be ignored. Italian and Portugese wines lend themselves to special purposes. German wines have little reason to exist.

My practical cellar would therefore consist of a dozen 12-bottle bins (144 bottles potential; not all would be used at any given time), plus open racks for individual bottles with approximately 40 spaces.

Into the bins would go 4 whites and 5 reds, as follows:

White 1: A case of $10 Chardonnay. (ie: Meridian, Beringer, Fetzer, St. Jean)
White 2: A case of Sauvignon Blanc or Sauvignon Fume. (Ex.-"Kendall Jackson"; $7/bottle.
White 3: A second case of either of the above grapes from an alternate producer. (Depending on which you serve more often.)
White 4: Mixed case: upscale whites for special occasions. (From your wine shop's A or B list: $25-40/bottle.)

That would be 48 bottles total, in 4 bins.

Red 1: A case of $10-12 Cabernet or blend, from California, Australia, or Chile. (ie: "J. Lohr" Cabernet, "$12/bottle.
Red 2: Another $10 Cabernet. (for variety)
Red 3: A case of Merlot.
Red 4: A case of Pinot Noir, from northern California, Oregon, or Washington state.
Red 5: A mixed case of French reds, from Bordeaux and the Rhone, for laying down.

That would be 60 bottles additional, in 5 bins. (The 3 remaining bins start empty.)

The spaces in the open racks might be occupied by these:

3-4 bottles of a blush white, such as white Zinfandel. 2-4 bottles of Champagne, non-vintage, French, inexpensive. 2 bottles of desert wine, such as Sauterne or California Muscat. 2 bottles of Pinot Grigio or Frascati. 4 bottles of Italian red, such as Chianti Classico. 4 bottles of red for pasta, such as Bardolino or Zinfandel. 4 bottles of Beaujolais for luncheons. That's 21-26 bottles for the racks. Add anything else you have an idiosyncrasy for, unappreciated by others, such as a German white (Riesling), Pinot Gris, or Voignier.

When a bin has been reduced to 3 bottles, move them to the racks, and refill the bin. When someone brings you a gift bottle, it goes on the rack if you don't drink it right away. This whole cellar can fit in a small closet.

Beyond this size, a cellar grows only to impress its owner or his friends. Unless you entertain with wine in your home substantially more than is the custom, the bottles you pile on stand a good chance of sitting beyond their useful life. I have lost a lot of expensive wine "saving it" for some special occasion only to substitute something else at the time. On the other hand, if you discover another wine which you simply must have in bulk, you have 3 open bins to accomodate it.

Opinions are solicited on my choice for a "practical wine room."