This Provence sommelier shares her essential tips to curating your personal wine cellar at home
Terre Blanche’s Chef Sommelier Aurélie Deharbe tells us how to achieve the perfect home cellar
Aurélie Deharbe is Chef Sommelier at five-star hotel Terre Blanche Hôtel Spa Golf Resort, Provence.
The first thing to do before creating your own wine cellar at home, is to find a good space. If you are lucky enough to have a whole room for it, you’ll have to check the storage conditions; see the temperature and the humidity level – too low is going to dry out the cork and the oxygen will get into the bottle and kill the wine. Excessive humidity can cause mould and will destroy your labels and your corks. The perfect temperature for a wine cellar is between 12°C and 15°C. If you prefer a wine fridge for the kitchen or another room, you’ll have to check if the fridge you are going to buy has a sun proof glass door. The sun is one of the most dangerous killers for your bottles. Lights have undesirable effects on the taste of wine.
Technical talk aside, let’s get down to the good stuff; the wine! Of course, it’s good to buy nice bottles like the famous Grand Cru Classé of Bordeaux and I don’t think you need tips from a professional to know that, but on the other hand, you also need to buy bottles that are ready to drink soon, rather than just those that need to age.
The smart thing to do is to buy second classes of wine from famous Châteaus, they are slightly cheaper than the first cuvées and most importantly you don’t have to wait for them to age. In addition, they are made the same way as their ‘big brothers’ and come from the same grapes. One of my favourites is “La Sirène de Giscours”, a top price/value ratio for a really nice Margaux.
Speaking of keeping bottles, you need to know that a magnum (a bottle of 1.5ltrs) is also the best way to keep wine for years. It’ll maintain a good re-sell value too. Nowadays, wine is a great investment but for those purposes you’ll need to take good care of it. Wine is born, and it lives and dies so, if you’re not planning to drink it, it’s important to sell it. >>
Building your collection
For your collection, you’ll need to buy some sweet wine. Firstly because you can drink it young or old (depending on your taste preference and your meal), and because, secondly, it can be drunk on its own as a dessert, or you can drink it young served with a roasted chicken with the crispy skin – surprising and delicious. Sweet wines also make an amazing birthday gift.
Buy some nice dry white wine, such as a nice Chardonnay from Burgundy (Puligny Montrachet is my favourite) or a delicious Pouilly Fumé from Loire (a sauvignon “fumé” blanc that is more original than a Sancerre), and why not something more fruity such as a Condrieu – the nicest Viognier – which you can drink young for the citrus fruit notes or when it is five years old for the apricot notes.
Naturally, we must also talk about Champagne. As Napoleon Bonaparte said of the famous sparkling wine: “in case of victory, I deserve it and in case of defeat, I need it’’. Champagne can pair with almost anything and, as it ages, it’ll be an amazing companion for a whole meal once the bubbles get more elegant and delicate.
Finally, the most important thing for me is where you live. I live in Provence, and so most of my wine cellar comes from vineyard in the region. A wine cellar needs to be personal, because it’s about more than opening a bottle – you’ll be able to share the stories of your favourites wines with your guests as well, and let your wine truly come to life.