I like to build things—my dad was a wooden boat builder—and I've often thought about making a custom wine rack, but my skill level is nowhere near high enough. The intricate wood work in the best wine cellars is absolutely beautiful. I've included a photo of a bookcase bar that I built, just to flaunt my amateur skills, and below that is the work of Vintage Cellars, true custom wine cellar professionals.
Now for the real deal:
Vintagecellars.com was recently featured in Wine Spectator, and when Laina McConnell contacted me to see if I'd like to review the website, I was immediately interested in the Science of Aging Wine section, which reads, "Surrounded by crumbling corpses and carefully aging bottles, a murderer befuddles his victim with expensive wine, preparing to lure him deep underground with the promise of a rare Amontillado sherry." What story is Vintage Cellars referencing?
Wine cellars can be dark and creepy, and when I was living in southern Italy, our landlady, who owned a 18th-century palace, had to stop work on hers because she came across a bunch of human bones. Vintagecellars.com points out that, for aging wine, dark, damp, and cool conditions have always been the best. The website includes an interesting historical tidbit: the ancient Romans used the catacombs beneath Rome to age their wine. Cool, right? If you're looking for authoritative information on the science of aging wine, I recommend visiting the site. (The picture above is from an ossuary in Milan.)
But why is it important to age wine? The compounds in wine react with one another over time, which creates new flavors. You can actually pinpoint where many of these flavors come from. For example, Vintagecellars.com writes, "Esters are one kind of compound that contributes to the wine's aroma." The yeast used during the winemaking process directly impacts the type of esters that develop as a wine ages. That's why winemakers are so picky about which yeasts they use. However, a winemaker can never know how a wine will change with time.
If a wine isn't stored correctly, it can develop negative flavors, such as when wine turns to vinegar, and that's where the professionals come in. They build wine cellars that keep wine safe. If you want to turn your wine cellar into a work of art, you can use wine barrel staves for flooring, incorporate stained glass, add hand-carved doors or redwood countertops, and even include a dining area; but most importantly, you can work within any space, which comes in handy if you want to fit a lot of wine in a small area. Vintage Cellars has even constructed a wine cellar on yacht.
Wine Spectator reports that some serious wine collectors, such as New Jersey-based investor Hank Uberoi, invest heavily. Uberoi's wine cellar cost over $350,000, which comes to $70 per bottle in terms of storage space. Uberoi's wine cellar, you might say, is to Burgundy what the New York Met is to Monet.
For the rest of us, wine storage doesn't need to cost as much, and Vintage Cellars creates custom wine cellars and wine racks for all budgets. I'm glad Laina contacted me, because the science of aging turns out to be very interesting stuff, and the intricate woodwork involved is quite simply beautiful.
And the short story alluded to on Vintagecellars.com? Edgar Allen Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado."