I've been in many great wine cellars over the years, and I know what goes into the making of one (money). But because I tend to spend most of my income on much duller thingsa mortgage and groceriesmy and my husband's cellar falls a little short of ideal. Exactly how far short? Well, according to my friend Robert M. Parker, Jr., the famous wine critic, nearly to the point of "derangement." I'd called Bobwho's been in just about every top wine cellar in the worldfor a frank assessment of our less-than-perfect collection. Naturally, he had plenty of interesting things to say...about our inventory of California Cabernet, white Burgundy and nonvintage Champagnenot to mention what he meant by derangement. Had bad storage made my wines insane? Here are a few highlights from our conversation.
LT: Our cellar conditions aren't picture-perfect. Although the temperature in our basement hovers between 60 and 65 degrees, the bottles are mostly in, well, a pile on top of a rock...It's a big boulder that's part of the foundation of our house. The total number of wines runs somewhere around 800 or 900 bottlesit's hard to tell exactly how much since bottles are on top of bottles. Some bottles are in cases and in racks, but most are scattered around. (It can make for pretty treacherous footing.) Do you hate messy cellars?
RP: I think a messy cellar makes you cool. I think designer cellars are pretentious. Sometimes I see a designer cellar and wish a dog would come in and pee on the wall or something. I like messy cellars because they look like they've been used. My cellar would appear messy to most people, but I know where everything is. Your cellar temperature is fine: 60 to 65 is great. The fuzzy area is when it gets above 70 degrees. For big reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, this kind of temperature variation may not be a problem, but for delicate red wines such as Pinot Noir, it can have a damaging effect. And as far as the rock goes, at least it's stable.