Know the difference between wine drinkers and wine lovers
Oct. 31, 2001
The difference between wine lovers and wine drinkers is simply the age of the wine they drink.
Wine lovers have cellars that in our part of the country aren't truly cellars at all. Cellars in the strictest sense of the word, that is. A true cellar, in the best Yankee definition, is a basement under the house, cool and dark and quiet.
I know many people with wine cellars, but not in the traditional sense. They have a room or rooms under the house that are used as dens, complete with a couch or two, pingpong table and pool tables, a TV set and probably a bar. They were not built with wine cellars in mind.
Does it fit?
You can call it a "wine cellar" if the term fills your needs. But a wine cellar can be on the main floor or in the attic, for that matter. If it satisfies certain requirements it is still a cellar.
Those requirement include insulation. My "wine cellar" is a small store room no longer used for its original purpose. We had its walls and ceiling re-insulated above its original need. We bought a window air conditioner that bottoms out at 60 degrees. It keeps the room constantly at that temperature, which is very close to ideal for the sleeping wine.
The room had a window. Light, like heat, is the enemy of wine, so the window was covered permanently with plywood. A door with steel bars was built to protect the wine against any other risk to its future, complete with a padlock that could probably protect the entrance to Fort Knox.
There the wine sits secure, protected and promising its delights for the future as it matures and ages.
To return to the opening sentence of this essay. Without a wine cellar, you cannot drink wine which has aged to its maturity. You have to drink it as it comes from the package store and in most cases that is very young. Most wines do get better with age. The tannins that are common with young wine, that is the ingredient from the skins of the grape that hide the fruit of the wine with a dry cottony taste in your mouth, do not get the time they need to disappear and blend into the product within the bottle.
You cannot buy today's wines put them in a closet at 70 degrees, more or less, and expect them to be drinkable two or three years down the road. You cannot set them in your brightly lighted kitchen or den in one of those cutesy six- or eight- or 10-bottle counter wine racks and expect them to do anything other than go bad, in many cases sooner than you expect.
There is another factor. The bargains in wines are those that are young. Today's $20 bottle of California cabernet sauvignon will be $25 to $30 next year, $40 the year after that and so on. Twenty years ago, I bought a case of Chateau Mouton Rothschild at $440 per 12 bottle case and over the years enjoyed it, every one. Today that same wine is selling for about $450 a bottle, just in case I couldn't live without a bottle or two. Have no fear. My memories of that great wine are sufficient.
The problem is wine is consumable. People who collect coins or stamps don't spend those coins or use those stamps for postage. What you have in your collection today will still be there five years from now. But any time someone drinks a bottle of wine, it is gone forever. Supply and demand. The demand continues but the supply is now one bottle less and, as a result, eventually the price goes up.
Wine lovers have cellars, storage facilities of one kind or another, that ensure the pleasure of their favorite beverage will be at their beck and call.
Wine drinkers stop by a package store on their way home and ask, "What do you have that will be good with a pot roast?" They buy it and within hours it's gone. A few days later, the process is repeated.
You will never know how wonderfully delicious wine can taste until you enjoy a bottle that is properly aged. You will likely never taste a bottle that has been properly aged unless you age it yourself in your own facility.
That's not to say young wine doesn't taste good. Some of it is wonderful. But whenever I open a bottle of a particularly tasty wine and share it with fellow wine lovers, there is this familiar question. "Can you imagine what this wine will taste like in five or 10 years?"
I can, indeed, and I hope some day you will be able to as well.
Stan Torgerson, a longtime resident of Meridian, writes a weekly wine column for The Meridian Star.