Starting a winecellar


Most good red and some white wines benefit from bottle aging. As the wine slowly matures, it becomes smoother, fuller, more developed. Harsh reds lose their tannins and sweet whites become lush and honeylike.

Unless you are prepared to pay premium prices for already-aged wine, the cellaring process has to begin at home. And for most, that presents a problem. Where do you store wine in a home that has no temperature-controlled cellar or climatized storage space? What is a condo or homeowner without a basement supposed to do?

One favorite storage spot is a seldom-used closet, especially if -- central air conditioning duct work passes it. If you have a closet with an exterior wall, you might install a small air conditioner in it to maintain a cool temperature. Another favorite storage area is under a stairway. Other people store their wine under the bed.

But avoid storing wine in the kitchen. Designers seem to like to put wine racks in the kitchen as a decorative element, but the temperatures in the kitchen are not appropriate for wine storage.

Whatever the location you select for your home wine "cellar," keep these points in mind:

* Choose a place that is usually dark. Exposure to light, over a period of time, can damage wine.

* Select a locale that is subject to minimal vibration. Excessive shaking is unsettling to wine and can distort the maturation process.

* Avoid a location that is too dry. In an arid environment, the corks in wine bottles shrink and air gets into the bottles, ultimately spoiling the wine.

* Try to maintain constant temperature. Temperature is the single most important factor to consider when planning a storage area for wine. Ideally, wine should be stored between 50 and 57 degrees. If that ideal is impractical, the next best thing is to store the wine in an area where the temperature rarely varies and is neither too hot nor too cold. Heat (above 75 degrees) can coarsen wine, causing it to mature too rapidly, and destroy much of its flavor. Cold (below 45 degrees) will stifle and dull the development of your wine.

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