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It may take an as-yet unrealised level of patience but, as David Pike explains, the benefits of cellaring wine are well worth the wait.

THOSE in the know tell you that 95 per cent of wine purchased from liquor stores is quaffed within 24 hours. I would go a little further and say that, around my mates, I am lucky to see a bottle last more than a couple of hours, which includes travelling time to and from the bottle shop.

So just who’s hoarding all their wine in a cellar for consumption at a later date?

When I left Perth many years ago to discover the world, I had accumulated a small collection of prized wines that I was managing to “cellar”. My vision was that these wines would be at their peak when I returned from my travels.

Safely packed away in a cupboard in the hallway of my parents’ home, my collection, wrapped in newspaper and delicately packed into a couple of old foam eskies, was protected from the elements.

All elements except the element of surprise.

My parents sold their house before I returned home. Needless to say, family members were happy to devour my prized collection after stumbling across them when packing to move. And after five or six years sleeping in their cocoon, many of my prized wines were ripe, ready and, apparently, quite delicious.

People cellar wine for many different reasons. Parents will often cellar wine for their children’s 21st birthdays (although I don’t know of too many bottles lasting the distance). Others will cellar wine as investments (a market that continues to grow), while some cellar wine for the rewards of being able to savour a wine that has developed and matured over time.

Once you have established that you would like to keep wine longer than a few hours, you need to begin seeking out an option that best suits your storage capabilities. Storage options range from a box under the bed or an insulated wardrobe to a professionally run wine storage centre. Whatever your option, there are a few basic rules to follow.

p Your storage space needs to be dark, free of vibration and should be able to maintain a constant temperature. Keep wine away from daylight, avoid external walls, in particular those that are subjected to lengthy periods of sunshine.

p The ideal temperature conditions would be a constant 15-17 degrees with around 65 per cent humidity. However, wines will not get too upset if the temperature varies 10 or so degrees over a period of time. Your wine will get upset if significant temperature variations occur every other day.

p Wines need to be stored on their side or upside down. The cork needs to be moist. There are a few exceptions, such as tawny ports and sherries, however, when in doubt lay it down.

p Once you have stored your wine, leave it alone. Don’t pop in and give your new friends a rub on the back and a quick turn. It is a myth that you need to turn your wines.

p The area you choose for storage should have some degree of humidity that will help to maintain the corks’ moisture. Believe it or not the humble ice-cream container with a splash of water is ideal if you think your space is too dry.

p Keep an inventory of what is in your cellar, especially if your cellar collection is at your mum and dad’s place.

Being a very proficient home handyman, I am always on the lookout for new and innovative home cellaring ideas. Here are a few ideas that I have seen in use for protecting wine.

Converting a wardrobe. A fantastic option. An unused wardrobe is a better option as it negates the need to find an alternative location for your clothes. Line the empty space with insulation and fill with your new wine friends.

Converting a spare room. I use this method at my place, where I installed a one horsepower temperature controlled air-conditioner with a small drip tray added underneath to control the humidity. The window was covered up and insulated with polystyrene. Outsourcing is my preferred option of home handy work but, for a very flash do-it-yourself job, try a company called Wine Cellar Designs (www.winecellardesigns.com.au). You will need to put it together, but are able to select a racking system for you individual space. Transtherm has a range of ‘preservation cabinets’ that will hold anything from one bottle to about 500 bottles. Transtherm and Vintech cabinets essentially recreate cellar conditions inside a cabinet by controlling the temperature and adapting specific hydrometric conditions, maintaining airflow and protecting wine from light. These cabinets are priced from $2000-$4500, and you will find a number of restaurants and fine wine merchants now using these cabinets. In Perth contact 9384 5499, or www.transtherm.com. It’s high-tech cellaring, but worth the investment.

The main problem with cellaring away from home is that you are prevented from grabbing one of your cellaring wines at will. It is like a forced savings plan. Here in Perth a few people have set up storage facilities. The Australasian Wine Exchange in Subiaco will store your wine for you at around $1.30 per case per month. Get in touch via www.aawx.com.au or contact direct on 9388 8455.

Liquor Barons in Mt Lawley also cellar your wine for you in their purpose-built underground cellar. Storage starts at $1.40 per case, which includes insurance, and they will negotiate price over 100 cases.

Get in touch with them on 9271 0886.

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