Wine Talk

Snooth User: Richard Foxall

How much is too much? Overflowing cellars...

Posted by Richard Foxall, Sep 2, 2010.

Napagirl just posted that she has run out of space for storing wine.  I worry that, even if I never buy another bottle of wine, it'll take two years of weekends to drink what I have stored up.  I also wonder about getting to the bottles at the right time--having too many that will peak soon, having some that I'll have to hang onto through moves and retirement before they are ready.  So at what point are you a "collector" and not a drinker?  Should you stabilize at some number, or keep growing?  I personally deplore people who tie up great wine as an investment or to show off.  It's meant to be enjoyed with the cork out, although I can appreciate the anticipation of drinking it, too.  So when should you stop buying, or at least set a cap?


Reply by irasmith, Sep 2, 2010.

you could try drinking during the week as a partial solution.

Reply by dmcker, Sep 2, 2010.

I've never viewed wine as a means to showing off. Cellaring, to me, is all about having the wines you want to drink when they are best to drink. Once in my life, during a time of economic hardship, some old bottles from popular years were a nice resource to have that I could sell off, though it was painful to do so and it took a little learning about how to do (once I doubled or even tripled my original asking price for various bottles they ran out the door; I guess people were wary of those original prices as one of those 'too good to be true' type of thing).

Now, my worry is more about not having enough of what I want for events involving my daughters, or for entertaining the way I might like, or for sipping on my own (still remember those bottles I had to let go).  So I guess I'm a drinker who doesn't 'collect' so much as try to plan ahead a bit....

Reply by outthere, Sep 2, 2010.

you could try drinking during the week as a partial solution

That method works real well for me though I still find that the purchases are coming in faster than I am making room for them. I really don't want to expand my cellar space any more. So I drink more. Have a case pending right now and am already over capacity by a couple cases. Is it an illness? ;-)

Reply by Degrandcru, Sep 2, 2010.

Why don´t you make a calculation based on your consumption. Im my case for example (based on my average 20 bottles/month):

Quality  Consume/month  average time in cellar  ideal stock

Everyday     10                      1.5 years               180

Better           6                       4 years                 288

High             3                       7 years                 252

Highest        1                      15 years                 180

So my ideal stock at every time would be 900 bottles. Simplifies the issue a bit, as quality is not exactly equal to average time in cellar, but gives you a rough number. 

Reply by dmcker, Sep 2, 2010.

All I can say, outthere (and leaving aside the various games we play with ourselves), is that by expanding capacity now you'll be very happy with yourself 10 years from now. Once I got a good passive, underground cellar, I never looked back. Stocks have fluctuated between 50 and a few thousand bottles in it, depending on time and circumstance, but I've never felt I had too many. There're always way too many opportunities, for yourself (we all know those) or others (entertaining, gifts, donations to charity auctions, even selling some bottles), to deplete that stock.

And Degrand, as you go along (and encounter special opportunities), the 'high' and 'highest' proportion may tend to grow....

Reply by Richard Foxall, Sep 2, 2010.

Wow, 900 to a couple thousand.  I can see no one is going to help napagirl (or me!) set any limits here.  I don't cellar daily drinkers (and I do have a glass or three almost every day) very long.  Some of them are already purchased from library stocks and the like, some aren't going to benefit.  I also probably don't consume 20 bottles a month, but 12-15 is probably fair for our household.

Reply by outthere, Sep 2, 2010.

All I can say, outthere (and leaving aside the various games we play with ourselves), is that by expanding capacity now you'll be very happy with yourself 10 years from now.


I'll be homeless and lonely, because I'll be the only one happy with myself, but have plenty of vino to keep me numb. ;-)


Reply by irasmith, Sep 2, 2010.

I live in an apartment, have a storage refridge (~40 bottles) in the kitchen, and rent cellar space at a local wine storage place -- a decision I've never regretted. At the moment I have 350 - 400 bottles with room for abt 100 more before i will need to expand. But expanding in increments is easy, I just rent an additional locker.

outthere -- it's not an illness, it's a pleasure

Reply by Stephen Harvey, Sep 2, 2010.

My cellar is racked for ~1,400 bottles and 30 magnums, I generally keep around 900 to 1,200.  I could rach it for another 1,000 to 1,500 if I wanted to

I tend to collect eclectically, but with a few favourites.

I like degrandcru's analysis it makes sense as a way to target what you want, unfortunately I am not that disciplined.

I also have the everyday rack in the kitchen which has a floating population of about 30.

My boys know they pinch bottles from there with out fear of retribution and it is always got a mixture $10-25 sparkles, riesling, sem/sav white blend, shiraz, cab/shiraz blends Often populated by cleanskins(shiners) as well.

SO Foxall, your cap should only be limited by the following;

  1. Space
  2. Budget
  3. Estimated life expectancy [yours not the wine]
  4. How much you consume
  5. How generous you want to be with friends and family
Reply by Degrandcru, Sep 2, 2010.

I have to admit that I am far from the 900 bottles I calculated for myself, that's just the calculation I to planned my passive underground cellar last year. I am at about 200 bottles and so very far away from Foxalls problem. Restriction is the budget. I spend about $400 - $ 500 on the monthly consumption of 20 bottles (plus all the wine consumed in restaurants), so it will take a while to get to the 900 bottles goal. But it feels good to have the space and not worrying about it for the future.

@Stephen Harvey: Unfortunately I am not disciplined about it at all and buy what I feel like at the moment, but it was a good starting point to plan the cellar.

Reply by GregT, Sep 2, 2010.

Buy what you can and drink what you like.

The purpose of having a number of bottles isn't to show off.  It's like shoes or shirts or underwear. Do you have two or three that you're happy with or do you have a few extras?  Or do you have one spice in the cupboard because after all, a spice is a spice?

If you only drink a few bottles a week, then maybe you can hold a case for ten years, wait, and open a wine from that case. Not sure what to do until the ten year wait, or what to do after. 

But if you have wine pretty much every day, you need a place to hold it.  And I'm not about to buy straight retail either.  So I had a cooler that held a few hundred, bought another, and finally built a cellar that held about 1500 but should probably have tripled it since it's getting really hard to move around in there.  I couldn't care less if anyone ever sees it and would prefer that they don't.  The wine is what I like and I have less than no interest as to whether or not someone else will like the wines or would have purchased a single bottle that I have.

Reply by napagirl68, Sep 3, 2010.

Well...   I do  not have a wine cellar.. no room in my house for that, and not sure how long we want to stay in the house to invest in a reno.  Wine fridges would never accomodate what I have.  I just store things differently.  Wines that I want to hold onto, I put into a regular fridge in the garage that is set at the highest cooling point.  I know this is not optimal, but not the worst solution either. 

Fortunately (or unfortunately), most of my wine is CA and meant to drink pretty young.  Here in CA, something like 98% of all wine sales are consumed within 24-48 hrs.. ha ha!  

Anyway, I keep my home at a constant temp of ~78F.  I NEVER put wine in the garage (unless in fridge, or unless winter) because our temps get to 90F in summer.  My master closet houses many of my cases of wine, which I store cork down.  And I have two large racks in the dining area that hold total ~90 wines.  I don't have a basement or crawlspace, or I would utilize that. 

My biggest beef is that my closet is getting packed!  And I LOVE clothes and shoes.  A solution is in sight.... when son goes to college in 2wks, I will move all hubby's clothes/shoes, etc into that room, and am turning it into my exercise room!  Getting my elliptical out of the office finally!  Sooooo... more room for wine.

Seriously, at worst case, it needs to be stored indoors... unless you can afford wine storage (which we have in town here).  I do not want to pay for that, and I like the suggestion of drinking more :-)  (Just burn off that sugar by running!)  NEVER store it at ambient temp that is uncontrolled...

Another note:  RARELY have I had a wine damaged by storage.  I mean RARELY.  I HAVE had ~30% of my wine damaged by cork taint.. I would love to address that subject, as it is my personal pet peeve.  I am a screw cap fan... would love a grand party where all threw their corkscrews into a recycle heap!!! 



Reply by Richard Foxall, Sep 3, 2010.

Yes, it's time to get rid of corks.  Just that the screw caps never look classy.  That's a topic for another thread, for sure.

  I actually have a problem with paying for wine storage, having paid for storage for my guitars and some other junk for quite a while (done paying for that, finally).  The cost per bottle per year and the odds that it will really be worthwhile give me pause. I am fortunate to have a crawl space that stays cool pretty much all the time.  The occasional excursion above 70 degrees is usually short, since we get fog when it gets hot in the Central Valley, and I figure that the heat has to get through the bottle to the wine--most of what I have stored down there, CdP, Hermitage, serious CA cabs and the like, are in pretty thick bottles.  I could increase the capacity, but then I am going to have to convince my wife that I really need a 15 year supply of wine.  Of course, she's the one who insisted on buying some expensive cab from our wedding year, 2001, with serious aging potential.  And it's a lot cheaper than buying a Porsche for my midlife crisis. And we know people who acquire far more compulsively. 

Reply by duncan 906, Sep 7, 2010.

Over the last few years I have aquired about 70 bottles.I am always on the look-out for interesting quality wines at bargain prices.Some came from my local supermarket,others from various websites including ,some from the annual London France Show,and others from trips to France.I live in a first floor flat with no cellar so I keep them in the wardrobe I do not consider myself a collector but somebody who enjoys wine and exploring the different wines.I only usually drink one per week but give a lot away.

           At the other end of the scale,a couple of years ago the Queen's sommelier was interviewed on tv when he revealed that Buckingham Palace has one of the world's best cellars.He reckoned on 25,000 bottles with the oldest going back to the Napoleonic Wars.The purpose is to be able to serve quality wines at State occasions.When Mr Sarkozy and his wfe spent the weekend ,a '61 Lafite was served to a couple of hundred people at the official dinner.A couple of months ago a newspaper article revealed that this year the said sommelier has spent £18,000 on replenishing this cellar.I am sure many of us would enjoy just a look at this cellar

Reply by Richard Foxall, Sep 7, 2010.

One per week?  duncan 906, you're a teetotaller by Snooth standards.  I have to admit that I like buying wine even when I am drinking less.  Recently I had a period of intense work where I had to go back in after dinner most nights, so I hardly drank any.  But I would still stop by the wine shop every now and again and stock up. I think no one on Snooth would consider him or herself a collector for collecting's sake--we all hope to leave this mortal coil with a couple bottles left over for the wake and nothing else.

Reply by chadrich, Sep 8, 2010.

I agree with much of what's been said above.  While I don't collect to collect, I have really enjoyed assembling the contents of my cellar, thoughtfully adding to it, and sharing it with friends.  A couple of added thoughts:

1)how long someone has been drinking wine should influence their decision.  I've been drinking 20+ years (well, legally anyway) and have seen my palate evolve significantly; moreso at the beginning.  So don't jump right in and buy cases and cases of something as you may find you don't particularly like it as much as your tastes evolve and your faced with having to drink it or dump it.

2)I shared the mentioned concern about bottles getting too old.  My solution was to put my inventory into Cellar Tracker, a free (or donation supported) online application that lets you do all sorts of cool reporting on what you have (I'm a spreadsheet geek, what can I say).  One of the big benefits is that many bottles have a drinking window in the system and you can sort your cellar by this window to see what needs to get consumed soon.  Not everthing has a window and many of them are only as good as other users' inputs, but it has helped me head-off a few bottles that were getting long in the tooth.  (And for the record, I have no personal or financial interest in Cellar Tracker, so am not self-promoting here.)

Reply by dmcker, Sep 8, 2010.

I find in general that those 'drinking windows' are usually too conservative and generally a pretty-much-hopeless stab in the dark. Too many of the reviewers in cellar-tracker are either first-blush-of-big-fruit afficionados, or just-plain inexperienced with aging wine, whether as drinkers or as collectors/storers. As long as your storage situation is a good one, you can expect to be able to drink still-maturing wine much longer than what the larger-proportion of the cellar tracker tribe says. That's also assuming you don't choose the wrong over-ripe-fruit-forward, drink-immediately, precariously-structured Parker bombs that all too often end up hollow in 10 years or less. And I don't see much on CT that allows you to discern which wines are those, unless you already have the proper critical sensibility regarding the issue and read a lot of CT reviews as well as those from outside, knowledgeable sources. Thus CT can best be viewed, IMHO, as merely one source of info among several to be referred to, though it frequently is in the top 3-5 of sources I go to on specific producers and vintages.

One good thing about CT, though, is that it allows you to 'follow' specific reviewers, see who they follow and who follows them, and thus more quickly learn who's worth listening to/reading, and who really doesn't have all that much of a clue.

These, by the way, are functions that Snooth would do very well to implement.

Reply by dmcker, Sep 8, 2010.

Plus, even though the user interface isn't as graphically pleasing as Snooth's, it's much easier to see a passle of reviews together on a single bottle or vintage of bottle, all on the same page. That is extremely convenient, as is the sister site's Wine Searcher merchant locator display of so many options on one page. *Much* better than Snooth's requirement to click through so many pages for one option at a time.

Hello, Philip and Mark!  ;-)

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