One thing that books and courses on winemaking never seem to teach is how to build up a good cellar of home-made wine. If you’re like most home winemakers, you always seem to be drinking the last bottle of your batch just as it’s really perfectly aged. Here are some tips on how to build and maintain your ideal wine cellar:
1. Determine how much wine you use. This includes your daily glasses with dinner, weekend dinner parties, friends dropping by, birthdays, anniversaries, the holiday weekend, house warming presents, your thirsty brother-in-law, etc. Let’s say that comes to about three bottles per week, all together. Split it up as per your preference for red and white (don’t forget pink, dessert, and champagne as well).
2. Multiply your weekly consumption by 52 (for the number of weeks in a year). For the person consuming and average of three bottles per week, you’d total 156.
3. Add 15-20% for unexpected wine emergencies (there will be one). In our example case this would be 25 or 30 bottles. We’ll round our total to 180 bottles. That works out to six 23-litre (5-gallon/thirty 750ml bottle) batches per year.
4. Make twice your yearly expected consumption, in as short a period as possible, ideally all within one or two months. In this case, it would be 12 batches, all in one fell swoop.
5. Put half of the wine away in your cellar, and forget about it. Drink your young wine, as you need it.
6. At the end of one year start opening those fully aged bottles, and enjoy the tremendous improvement that good cellaring can bring. On the anniversary date of your big batch, make another six batches, all at once, and put them to the back of the cellar. In a year you’ll nearly dislocate your shoulder patting yourself on the back.
The problem with this plan is, while it is very rewarding, you need both the space and the cash to make 12 batches of wine in a very short period of time. Since many of us are not in a position to quite swing such an expenditure, another good strategy is to make two batches of everything, every time you make wine. Bottle one for your use, and put the other in the cellar (away from the prying corkscrew of your thirsty brother-in-law!) For the home vintner, try and stay on a regular schedule to maximize your use of equipment: idle carboys are nobody’s playground. Over the course of a year you should be able to get at least three or four batches salted away for ageing, making a good start on your cellar.
The essence of any cellaring plan is to stash away as many bottles as you can and allow them to age. If you can even take 5 or 6 bottles from each batch you make and squirrel them away for a year, you will quickly have a healthy stock of brilliantly aged wine to drink. The trick is to continually repeat this process – without cheating by taking a bottle here and there!
You’ll also want to keep on top of your young drinking wine. Calculate when this supply is likely to run out and re-order in enough time for the wine to be ready to bottle before you drink your last bottle. For some this may mean starting a new batch every time you bottle. This will help prevent you from dipping into your wine set aside for aging and save you a lot of money by keeping you from those overly expensive commercial bottles of wine you’d end up buying to fill the void.