The Importance of Keeping on Top of Your Wine Cellar

Posted by: samy November 3, 2010 No Comments

There’s no doubt about it: it’s fun to be a sommelier. Tasting wine, selecting wine, ordering wine, pairing wine with food … it’s all good stuff and makes us feel a little guilty for getting paid to do it – but only a little.

What’s not so fun about being a sommelier, but probably the most important part of our jobs, is keeping stock moving through the cellar.

Both of us have experienced the dismay of having to dump wines that are no longer good – in some cases pouring thousands of dollars down the drain. But that’s exactly what happens when you don’t stay on top of your inventory. We’ve been in restaurant cellars that have not stored precious Bordeaux properly – only to have the corks rot out. We’ve been in personal cellars where bottles of decent stuff fell to the bottom of the pile 15 years ago, and have suffered the ravages of time and are no longer drinkable.

We just finished up organizing a private cellar of about 500 bottles, where 4 cases – or 48 bottles – were no longer drinkable. That nearly 10% of the entire collection!! Many of these bottles were into their second decade, and were meant to be consumed within 3 – 5 years at the most. Now at 10 years plus, the fruit had fallen out, the colour had turned to garnet, and nothing enjoyable was left in a once enjoyable bottle.

It’s easy to do: you buy a case here, you pick up a few bottles on a weekend trip there, and before you know it you’ve got a decent collection filled with great wine and great memories. But remember: not all bottles – in fact, very few — are meant for long term cellaring and will start to fade within a few years. Ask the wine merchant when you buy how long the bottle should last, and write it down. And when the bottles land in your cellar, go through them every once in a while to make sure your consuming everything that’s getting close to its expiration date.

It’s a shame when a collector’s enthusiasm overtakes practicality. And trust us, we’ve never been big on practicality, but it pays in the long run. Keep a catalogue of the stuff you’ve got on a simple excel sheet or even a written notebook and if you really can’t be bothered to organize what you’ve got hire professionals to do it for you. It may just save you the heartache and financial loss of having to dump your once highly coveted wines.

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