Clear the cobwebs and create the perfect wine cellar

Jason Hewlett / Kamloops Daily News
February 21, 2012 01:00 AM

Doug Wittal holds a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape inside his wine cellar featuring an Italian mural.

The wine room has come a long way from that cobweb-infested space in the basement.

Well on the way to becoming a staple feature in any high-end house, the wine room - or closet depending on space - is growing in popularity.

How to build a wine room has been covered before in the pages of The Daily News. But even more important to the wine connoisseur than the room is what to put in it.

That's where Fawn Martin, product consultant at the Sahali Signature Liquor Store, comes in. But, before she can recommend the wine, she needs to know what the buyer plans to do with it.

If a wine is going to be stored and aged, then be prepared to spend some money, she said. A barolo, bordeaux, burgundy and port improves with age - lasting anywhere from 10 to 15 years - but they are expensive.

"Barolos do need to be aged," she said, adding 15 years is just right. "When you pour them, they come out like a brick colour."

Barolos can start at $20 a pop, but any bottle of decent, aged wine can go for $50 to $70. Most reds are best consumed two to five years after vintage.

"When aging a wine, you're looking for something with high tannins, high acidity and high in sugar because they all act as natural preservatives," she said.

Tannins are a family of natural organic compounds that are found in grape skins, seeds and stems and are a natural preservative.

High-alcohol wines will taste even more like alcohol after aging, as will acidic wine. If other flavours diminish over time, the acidity will be more pronounced.

Martin said an important thing to remember is a bad or cheap bottle of wine will taste even worse the older it gets.

"If you buy a crappy wine in 10 years it will be crappy times 10," she said.

When it comes to white wine, it's best to pop the cork and enjoy one to three years after vintage, said Martin.

A vintage wine is one made from grapes that were all, or primarily, grown and harvested in a single specified year.

Developer Doug Wittal built himself a one-metre wide by two-metre deep wine closet at his Sun Rivers home. Held within crossed dark-stained wood shelves are 350 bottles of wine.

"I'm a red wine kind of guy," he said of the majority of bottles in the room.

Half of the collection he intends to age 10 to 20 years; the rest is for general consumption. Wittal sees no point in holding onto all of the wine forever.

"Sooner or later you have to enjoy it," he said.

He built the cellar just off his home theatre room. Wittal had a refrigeration unit installed in order to keep the wine at a cool 10 to14 C, which is optimum for storing wine, he said.

Martin said it's important to maintain a cool temperature and relative humidity of about 60 to 70 per cent. Champagnes and white wines should be closest to the floor, where the air stays a few degrees cooler; red wines are best stored on upper shelves to maintain a perfect tasting temperature.

If the air is too dry, the cork seals will dry out, allowing air to enter the bottle and threaten the integrity of the wine, she said.

Wine should never be stored for any length of time standing up, said Martin. It only takes about a month for the cork to dry out in a standing bottle.

"Who needs expensive vinegar?" she asked.

It's also best to build a cellar away from vibrating washers and dryers, stereo systems or strong light. Martin said the best wine remains calm and quiet.

"Just like you should be when you drink it," she said.

© Copyright 2015 Kamloops Daily News

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