The year of your wedding or your only child's birthday may have been a great one for Claret - if you're lucky! A good Port may be a better choice. So often people buy inexpensive wines, probably sourced on holiday where they tasted great, only to find that after a year or two, at best they have lost their freshness or, at worst they have turned to vinegar. Sound familiar?
Maturation is, after all, the gradual oxidisation of the wine and all wines will eventually oxidise given sufficient time. Whether this is 50 weeks or 50 years depends on:
the style or the wine
the quality of the harvest
the skill of the winemaker
the storage conditions
For example, at the top end of the scale, the best Bordeaux Cru Classes from 1982 (a wonderful year) are only now coming of age and are superb, those from 1984 (a very poor year) are already past their best and were never great.
However, for the budget conscious mortal who wants to build a personal cellar, know your vintages and buy at the best quality level you can afford from one of the better producers. 'Reserva' wines are so much better than their generic counterparts and represent much better value given that Excise Duty in Ireland is a fixed levy per bottle of still wine up to 15% alcohol (double for sparkling) regardless of the value.
The Principles of Wine Storage
Most domestic houses can accommodate a modest wine cellar without disruption or structural changes. We are fortunate in Ireland (some would disagree) to enjoy a temperate climate with few extremes. It is the extremes that affect wine in storage - extremes in temperature, humidity and light exposure.
Bear in mind the following:
Wine is most comfortable at around 15°C - give or take a degree or two.
Never store near a radiator, in direct sunlight, in a warm kitchen or an attic.
A shaded corner in a spare bedroom, the bottom or a wardrobe or an understair cloakroom will normally fit the bill.
Always store wine on its side to keep the cork moist. Dry corks can shrivel and allow oxygen in with disastrous affects.
Keep away from direct sunlight, as this will rapidly change the colour especially of a white wine and in particular those in clear bottles.
Avoid very damp conditions. Humidity is useful for long term storage to keep corks moist but too much can rot or distort the labels.
Always keep a Cellar Book to record what you have in stock and note down the intended/optimum consumption date.
Forbid, absolutely, unauthorised access to your stocks by less discerning family members or you may find your only bottle of 'Eiswein'* has been offered to your granny because she 'enjoys something sweet'