You’ve probably thought about it before.
I wish I had my own wine cellar!
But there are always excuses:
When you picture a wine cellar, you are probably thinking of vast underground basements lined with dusty bottles from end-to-end.
In 2016, Bill Koch decided to sell 20,000 bottles, valued at US$15 million.
(That works out to US$750 per bottle!)
And that was less than half of his total collection.
Thankfully, you don’t need to have those kinds of numbers to build a respectable cellar of your own.
How many bottles make a cellar?
There’s no rule saying you must have at least a thousand bottles before it can be considered a cellar.
Since there’s no rule let’s just choose an arbitrary, yet solid, figure:
One Hundred Bottles.
That’s 0.5% of 20,000, just under 9 dozen cases of wine, and if you line them up in your mind it certainly looks respectable.
A small restaurant would not likely have 100 wines on their list. Perhaps twenty or so different wines, with a dozen of each in inventory.
Imagine having a small cellar that rivals that of a small restaurant, filled only with wines that you choose.
Aim For Value
You don’t need to spend $750 per bottle for your wine collection.
You don’t even need to spend $100 per bottle.
$20 – $50 per bottle.
I find that this is the sweet spot for value.
At this price range, you avoid the cheaper, overly manipulated concoctions.
Without going crazy, you start to see the better, well-crafted wines.
At $50 per bottle, our 100-bottle cellar will be valued at a mere $5,000 – just 0.03% of $15 million.
(And at $20/bottle, that’s $2,000).
Set A Schedule
If you’re not Bill Koch, spending $2,000 – $5,000 in one go might still be beyond your means.
So start slow.
One dozen case a month.
At $50 per bottle, that’s $600 per month, or $20/day.
At the lower end, $20 per bottle is $240 per month, or $8/day.
In 9 months, you’ll have your 100-bottle cellar.
What do you spend $8 – $20 a day on that you don’t really need to?
That’s $8 – $20 a day that could go towards your very own 100-bottle cellar.
Find The Right Space
100 bottles will take up some space, and it’s important to find the right space to store them.
Three considerations above all:
- Constant, cool temperature: your personal home cellar should be in a cool area where the temperature does not fluctuate much.
- Away from light and vibrations: too much exposure to light can negatively affect how a wine tastes. Vibrations risk breaking bottles.
- Away from smells (chemical, etc…): Especially for wines sealed under cork, they may absorb smells from the storage area, so make sure it is clean and odorless.
Follow these principles and your wines should be quite safe from harm.
Pick Your Favourite Wines
There are many ways to pick a dozen wines.
- 1 x 12
- 2 x 6
- 3 x 4
…and so on.
If there is a wine you know that you love, go ahead and buy a straight case of it.
On the other extreme, if you don’t know what you like, a random selection of twelve different bottles is a fun way to explore.
Or do something in between – choose three wines that you like, and order four bottles of each.
Here are a few wines that I would personally choose:
- Riesling – from Germany and Australia
- Chardonnay – from France and Australia
- Semillon – from Australia
- Cabernet Sauvignon – from France, Australia and North America
- Shiraz/Syrah – from France and Australia
- Pinot Noir – From France, Australia and North America
- Italian reds – Nebbiolo, Sangiovese
- Spanish reds – Tempranillo, Garnacha
- New World wines – Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, etc…
- Champagne/Sparkling wine – from France, Australia, Spain and Italy
- Dessert wines – from France, Australia, Germany and Italy
- Exotics – lesser known varieties and regions, fortified wines, etc…
This may seem like a very broad selection, but when you take into account the whole world of wine this is actually quite limited.
Australia is mentioned many times, simply because I live and work here and I am familiar with the wines and regions.
(Imported wines are also more expensive here due to taxes and shipping halfway around the world.)
Some big varieties I have not mentioned are Pinot Gris/Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot. I don’t dislike them, and will drink them at the right time. I just have my preferences.
Otherwise, the Exotics category is my chance to freshen up my palate with less common wines and countries – Xinomavro from Greece, Touriga Nacional from Portugal, Furmint from Hungary, Gruner Veltliner from Austria, etc…
Again, these are just wines I would choose.
If you know that you love Nerello Muscallese from Sicily, go ahead and stock up.
(Read this article for more inspiration – What Should I Drink Next?)
If you don’t know what you like, buy a few mixed cases and experiment.
You will not just be building a cellar. You will be drinking from it too.
So best to keep a record of what you have purchased and tasted.
This could be a spreadsheet document on your computer, or a pen and notebook that it kept near where your wines are.
When you do feel the urge to pick a bottle from your cellar, it’s easier to consult your notebook/spreadsheet than to pull out individual bottles until you find the right one (although there is some fun to be had in doing this as well).
And it’s also good to be able to tally up how much of a wine you have left, rather than rummaging through your cellar looking for a bottle that you thought was still there, but in fact you finished off the last bottle last month.
(Another good idea is to look into wine preservation, so you can enjoy a wine over a longer period).
However you choose to keep track of your cellar is up to you.
- One Hundred Bottles.
- $20 – $50 per bottle.
- One dozen case a month.
For $8 – $20 a day, in less than a year you can have your own 100-bottle wine cellar.
Total cost = $2,000 – $5,000.
And you didn’t even have to be as wealthy as Bill Koch to do it.
Read more: 5 Wine Questions I Always Ask Guests