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Wine cellars are an investment, not a necessity.

Wine Cellars are an investment in the future, and they’re currently being used as an accessory.

A lot of people who start drinking wine and have the opportunity to design or remodel their houses decide to add a wine cellar. However, so few of those people will actually get any added value (aside from the higher realty value) out of the addition. How many wine cellar owners are getting real use out of their wine cellars, and what are the circumstances in which building one would be a good investment?

A wine cellar has to meet certain specifications to be effective at storing and properly aging your wine. It must be temperature controlled to be 65 degrees (F) or under (most wine professionals recommend keeping red wine between 50 and 65 degrees and white wine between 40 and 55 degrees). It must be dim or dark to prevent UV damage to the wine. It must have humidity control to prevent the corks from rotting or drying out. It must have racks that will keep the bottles sideways and the corks expanded and wet. And those racks must keep the wine bottles visible, organized, and in pristine condition—ripped or marked-up labels hurt the resale value of the wine, if the owner plans on cashing in on his investment.

In order to make the wine cellar worth the price of construction, the owner should have a few goals:

1.       Buy wine that you plan on aging, and buy it in bulk. If you dedicate space in your house to a wine collection, it should be a wine collection that you don’t plan on removing the next day—you want to let the wine rest and age without disturbance, especially if you’re saving the bottles for a special occasion or resale. A wine cellar is not ideal for everyday-drinking wines. The setup and price of such a room is expensive and unnecessary if the bottles you own are going to go in and come right back out.

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The Wine Doctor

The Wine Doctor

It's rare that I'll open a bottle of wine without the intent of finishing it. I don't drink alone, but I like to make sure that if I'm going to open a bottle, the friends who are with me are ready to empty the bottle over the course of our evening together. However, when we get distracted from finishing the bottle, I end up using the leftover wine to cook, or dumping the dregs. I'm not often in the mood to drink the same wine two nights in a row--I like to mix it up!

I was asked, however, to fight my natural instinct in order to review this wine accessory, The Wine Doctor. It's a sleek pump that comes with stoppers that indicate when the air has been removed from your unfinished bottle of wine, with the aim of preventing wine-ruining oxidation before you can finish the bottle at a later date. It's easy to use (insert stopper, place cylinder on top, and pump until the red bar disappears), pretty enough to leave on the counter, and at $25 a pop, it's not too pricey for an everyday wine drinker.

So does it work?

I tasted a pinot noir one night, along with my boyfriend and a friend he had visiting. We talked about the wine and what we tasted when it was freshly-opened. I was familiar with the wine's profile already, and it delivered on my expectations: full of acidity but medium-bodied, good fruitiness and mild tannin. We fought the urge to pour ourselves a second glass, and I sealed the top of the now-half-full bottle using the Wine Doctor stopper. It was slightly awkward, both because the up-and-down pumping motion with a silver cylinder skews a bit pornographic, and because I kept pinching my fingers in the groove where the two cylinder portions meet. But I'm not the most graceful person, and once I figured out that I should probably move my hands away from the seam, it was much less painful!

The red disk in the stopper seemed to disappear much too quickly for the oxygen to have been completely removed from the bottle. It turns out the red disappears only when there's a seal between the stopper and the bottle, which happens on the first or second pump. At that point, the bottle can be lifted off the table by the stopper, but there's still air in the bottle that will continue to oxidize the wine. You need to keep pumping until it gets reeeeeeealllly difficult to pull up on the pump--there will still be oxygen in the bottle, but it's going to be a lower level than before.

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When is a wine ready to drink?

When is a wine ready to be drunk?

That’s a good question I get asked a lot. I know quite a few people get nervous when buying wine that was made within the last couple of vintages. They think it’s too young to drink, and they’ll try to find something from an older vintage, something that’s been sitting in the bottle for five or six years. But when was the last time you saw mostly 2007 vintage wines on the shelf at the wine store? It’s all 2010-2012 currently (and soon we’ll see more 2013 vintage wines taking over).

I’ve seen people get upset over the youth of the entire selection. They want a wine with a lot of age, a wine that’s “open,” a wine that has had time to develop the secondary flavors that come through with years in the bottle.

But most wines these days are not meant to sit in a cellar or a wine fridge for years before they become drinkable. In fact, about 99% of the wines available for purchase today are meant to be drunk *tonight.*

Sure, there are high-end Bordeaux, Burgundy, German, Italian, and sometimes American wines that are meant to be set down for a couple years, but by and large, you’re going to be paying quite a hefty sum for these wines. If you’re spending less than four figures on a bottle of wine, it’s a safe bet that you could pop the cork on it tonight and it would absolutely be ready to drink.

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