Starting a Cellar - Feedback Appreciated! Too long a post

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Sh@n A
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Starting a Cellar - Feedback Appreciated! Too long a post

#1 Post by Sh@n A » July 10th, 2018, 10:34 pm

Inspired by this board [highfive.gif] and tired of consuming (and complaining about) drinking young bottles. Going to take advantage of strong 2015-16 vintages and start building a cellar for the long-term. Keen for any visceral reactions to the below! And look forward to being a contributing member of the board/offlines going forward!

I figure targeting a 480 bottle cellar (rationalized by consuming 24 bottles/year, at average $110/bottle, with half at $75 and half at $150, with full price range of $40-200). Will aim for purchasing for 20YR aging cycle = 480 bottle cellar. I will target a healthy amount of 375ml and magnum (as contemplated below, 25% of bottles would be 375, 60% would be 750ml and 10% would be magnum). 375ml for my personal enjoyment, magnum for group settings (obviously) [drinkers.gif]

I enjoy Burgundy and Barolo the most, and will weight earlier purchases here given recent strong vintages. I will also take advantage of 2015-16 Bordeaux vintages and their ageability to beef up Bordeaux on equal footing. After that, I will focus on Cab Franc, and then Rhone.


Inspired by advice on the board's advice, I am going to add some magnums & bottles at lower price points for future potential entertaining that can age very well. E.G., 2016 Bordeaux and Barolo, at $45/bottle price points (but I wonder if I can make this even lower, e.g. $25/bottle for value, sport and maintain drinkability).

2016 Vintage Strategy:
Barolo: 12 375ml, 24 750, 10 1.5L ($45-$200/bottle for 750 equivalent)
Barbaresco: 4 375, 6 750, 0 1.5L ($45-$125/bottle)
Langhe Nebbiolo: 6 750 ($25/bottle)
Brunello: 4 375, 8 750 ($45-200/bottle)
Bordeaux (Left): 6 375, 16 750, 8 1.5L ($25-200/bottle)
Loire (Cab Franc): 2 375, 4 750 ($100-200/bottle)
N. Rhone: 4 750 ($75-125/bottle)
Burgundy (Nuit): 6 375, 6 750 ($75-$200/bottle)
Burgundy (Beaune): 2 750 ($100/bottle)

2015 Vintage Strategy:
Burgundy (Nuit): 12 375, 18 750, 4 1.5L ($75-$200/bottle)
Burgundy (Beaune): 2 375, 4 750 ($100-200/bottle))
N. Rhone: 2 375, 13 750 ($45-200/bottle)
Bordeaux (Left): 4 275, 8 750 ($45-125/bottle)
German Riesling: TBD

This will be 190 bottles total (750ml equivalent), however this is inclusive of lower priced magnum formats for 'entertaining' which should not count against my more "personal/core" cellar. Excluding the "entertaining" bottles, this would also be 130 bottles of "core" bottles. Thus, out of my 480 cellar target, I would be filling 25% of it with 2015-16 vintage wines. This seems high, but I am taking advantage of strong Barolo and Burgundy vintages.

I am starting cellar for the long-term, however, it makes sense to add more approachable wines.

Accordingly, I would like to add to this ~25 bottles that will be approachable younger ($50-125 price points):
California Cab Franc (6-12)
Argentina Cab Franc (6-12)
California Oakville cabs (6)
California Pinot (6)

And, backfill some modestly aged Europeans for another ~25 bottles ($75-150 price points)
2010 and 2013 Barolo
2010 Brunnello
2010 and 2013 mid-tier Bordeaux
2010 1er Burgundy
2010 Mid-tier N. Rhone
2011 and 2014 Sauternes
2013 Oregon Pinot

And, backfill some more mature Europeans for another ~20 bottles ($75 - $200 price points)
1990-2000 Bordeaux
1990-2000 Barolo
1990-2000 Brunello
2005-2010 Burgundy
2000-2005 Rhone

In summary:
130 bottles of "core/personal" 2015-16 vintage in a variety of formats
20 bottles of mature old world wines drinkable now
25 bottles of more approachable new world drinkable now - 5 years
25 bottles of strong 2010 vintage drinkable in 2-10 years
130 bottles of 2015-16 vintage drinkable in 7-30 years (across a variety of formats)

This is 200 bottles out of my 480 bottle target.

Next round of purchases I think would be Sauternes (pick up past years that haven't appreciated), Port (small), Sagratino (Paolo Bea, may others), Sicilians (need to learn more), Greeks (need to learn more) and Riesling (dry and off).


Questions on my mind:
- Am I not buying enough of 2015-16 vintages? E.G., I could be more aggressive if I don't plan on buying 2017 etc. unless they are a strong vintage. E.G., fine skipping 2017s. So accordingly, should I press a little more today?
- Should I include $25 Barolo and Bordeaux into my game plan off strong vintages?
- It seems more difficult than expected to procure 2015 vintages than expected glancing at EuropeanWineResource, Millesima, etc. Who is best out there for Burgundy or Rhone, for example? Would be great to consolidate purchases with one provider. But seems very, very difficult.
- Am I overbuying 2010 vintages given prices are probably quite high? Perhaps go off-year or cap my price points to < $100 given depth of vintage.
- Should I de-emphasize 2016 Burgundy and just focus on 2015 + handful of 2016 to compare against?
- Not enough magnums?

Look forward to any feedback, reactions, encouragement or discouragement you may be able to share!
/ @ g r @ \

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Starting a Cellar - Feedback Appreciated! Too long a post

#2 Post by Brian Tuite » July 11th, 2018, 6:11 am

rationalized by consuming 24 bottles/year
I’m sorry but you started with an irrational premise.
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#3 Post by Robert.A.Jr. » July 11th, 2018, 6:13 am

Funny, first time that I've ever been in the sub-forum. Oy might get more play in the main thread.

Everyone has their own approach, yours struck me as way too planned, taking away the whim and fancy of the hobby to me. While I have some core things that I buy, I do not pre-plan the quantity and lock myself into only buying X and Y. I love the freedom to buy things spontaneously because I read a thread here, got an interesting emailer or a buddy recommended something to me. As you become more engaged in this community anticipate that you will make some spontaneous purchases.

On the flip side, love that you are thinking ahead with 375s. If I had to go back and change one thing, I would have bought 1/3 to 1/2 of my Bordeaux in 375s. Many times I pop a mature Bordeaux by myself, say mid-week, and the ideal would be a 375 so that I do not feel compelled to drink more than 1/2 a bottle and then hope the wine stays positive overnight. My experience with young wines is that keeping 1/2 of a bottle in the fridge over night is fine. A 20+ year old wine, perhaps not so much.

Have you bought any 2014 Bordeaux? Solid vintage and very nicely priced. I would also recommend buying some normal, affordable, drinkable wines for the shorter term. Lots of decent Bordeaux and Chinon for $30 and under. Think Sociando, Cantemerle, Lanessan, Carbon La Pelouse, Senejac, etc.

And finally, you cannot be a Berserker and only drink 24 bottles per year. That could get you banned. I will assume that was a typo and you mean 240. ;)

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Starting a Cellar - Feedback Appreciated! Too long a post

#4 Post by Sh@n A » July 11th, 2018, 7:18 am

I think this is going to be too much fun.
I will able to rationalize more travel to new wine regions. I probably will visit Piedmont for picking out the 2016 Barolos in ?2020 or 2021?. I am going to taste more Barolo in the meantime to prepare for this. Already wondering how to steer the family to Sicility in the interim. And I have no idea where Sagratino is on the map (for now...).

There is definitely room for sponteanous purchases! I am kickstarting the cellar building effort early leveraging some strong vintages, but there is a LOT of room.

Tracking back and buying past bottles/producers I enjoyed will also be fun. This isn't something I have really done before, but a cellar will give me more kick to do so.

Explaining 24/year
In reality, I am budgeting a 500 bottle cellar, which seems less controversial for folks here! The actual # bottles/year will be higher as average bottle life will be < 20YRs that I assumed (e.g., 375ml or lower tier purchases in less ageable style). Assuming 200 bottles/yr for 20YR average life at $100/bottle = 4000 strong cellar at $400K value! Not happening. But it does raise the question of potentially adding more at lower price points on strong vintages and adding more now at higher price points on strong vintages to provide some upside flex :)

2014 Bordeaux
To be clear, I have not bought anything yet. Have a starter list that needs to be fleshed out. Trying to assemble my bottle/vintage/format strategy, and will then pick it all out.

Not sure how to weight 2014 vs. 2015 vs. 2016 Bordeaux, however. As a new idea, I will try to create some mini verticals (e.g., 2014 vs 2015 vs 2016).

Formats
Thanks for thought on the 375 (and indeed the idea came from others on the forum regarding cellar advice). I just realized I have no 3Ls... will want to add a handful of those for fun.
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#5 Post by Chris Foley » July 11th, 2018, 8:05 am

For 2015 Left Bank Bordeaux, focus on Margaux and Pessac-Leognan.
Margaux I bought in your price range: Rauzan Segla, Brane Cantenac, d'Issan, Cantenac Brown, Giscours.
Pessac I bought: Domaine de Chevalier. Also consider - Les Carmes Haut Brion, Smith Haut Lafitte, Malartic Lagraviere, Haut Bailly, Pape Clement.
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#6 Post by Mike Stoneking » July 11th, 2018, 9:55 am

Always good to start with a plan but don't lock yourself down. As said above, you will get turned on to a wide assortment of wines that are not on your list and you will be remiss if you don't check some of them out. There is also an unwritten rule of cellar building. Whatever size you build, you will run out of room. Quickly. And on your "handful of 3L" comment. It can be tough to consume a 3L unless you bring it to a large event. They look better on the shelf than they are for consumption. Four bottles of the same wine has to be baller quality to get consumed. Good luck on your adventure. [berserker.gif]
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#7 Post by Todd F r e n c h » July 11th, 2018, 10:43 am

Mike Stoneking wrote:Always good to start with a plan but don't lock yourself down. As said above, you will get turned on to a wide assortment of wines that are not on your list and you will be remiss if you don't check some of them out. There is also an unwritten rule of cellar building. Whatever size you build, you will run out of room. Quickly. And on your "handful of 3L" comment. It can be tough to consume a 3L unless you bring it to a large event. They look better on the shelf than they are for consumption. Four bottles of the same wine has to be baller quality to get consumed. Good luck on your adventure. [berserker.gif]
Good point on the 3l bottles - keep those to an absolute minimum, and of those, make sure at least one is Champagne, as that's MUCH easier to open and share at an event.

As for the 24 bottles per year consumption, I'm also confused - is that 'net'? Meaning...you'll be purchasing X number and consuming as you go, net loss of 24 bottles per year? If you are only consuming 2 bottles per month, you might be driven off WB with pitchforks and torches.
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#8 Post by Sh@n A » July 11th, 2018, 2:14 pm

I just subscribed to the site, so I can't be kicked out (as easily!). And to use my favorite WB emoticon: neener
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#9 Post by Ian Sutton » July 11th, 2018, 3:11 pm

Having a clear idea of why you want to cellar wine is a great starting point. It's remarkably hard to say what the end goal is though, as that does move. In 2 years time you may decide Burgundy is not your thing, but the wines of Spain and Portugal, plus Hunter Valley Semillon excite you.

For me the starting intention was similar, wanting more than just young wine, and wanting to invest time and money in cellaring wine, to hopefully reap rewards later.

What happened was I got through the early cellaring wines too quickly, as nothing was ready/mature, so I drank what was there and nothing was hitting proper maturity. In time as the cellar grew from 100 bottles to 200 and has since doubled again, I've been able to let some sleep properly. In addition, buying at auction was a big help (and also from a couple of other sources of aged wine). Having pre-aged wines available protected my cellar from drinking too young, but also helped inform me about what I sought in aged wines. My palate experience also broadened and changed, so what I was cellaring originally is quite different to what I cellar now.

Anyway, you've asked for feedback, so I'll offer the following:
- Utilise the idea of 'cellar defenders'. These are either pre-matured wines bought retail / auction / here, or tasty younger wines that don't demand cellaring to show well. These wines are there to stop you reaching for an overly young Barolo or Pauillac etc. Aim to have enough so there's always something interesting and ready to hand, and replace frequently. This avoids going to the cellar and pronouncing hat of a few hundred bottles 'nothing's ready!'. What I'm saying is bump the 25 drink young wines up quote a bit (maybe double), and get a few more older wines as well (maybe double that 20).
- You've aimed for a fairly classic selection. It's often the way, with people cellaring what is widely seen as the great cellaring wines. However there are plenty of other wines that reward cellaring, and you may find these appeal more and at a cheaper price. Don't be afraid to experiment be that with Dao, Cabardes, Madiran, Hunter Shiraz, and hundreds of other good options. Having wines that cellar well and are inexpensive can be just as rewarding as the prestige stuff.
- Half bottles are a great option for sampling & shaping your interests (and for midweek!). There's never enough of them though, and the range is often narrow, so when you see a good stash - pounce!
- Magnums conversely need enough people to make them sensible to open, so do get some, but not too many until you know you are going to drink them. Anything above can run the risk of there never being a suitable occasion, so they become ornaments, taking up useful cellar space.
- It can be easier to focus on buying one region until you're happy you've got a nice selection, then branch out. The grand plan is an option, but leaving flex really helps you to follow your own palate.
- Linked to the above, I found it useful to have 2-3 areas of focus, with maybe a dozen areas where I might be actively sampling, with the aim the favourites become a focus in their own right. Rinse and repeat.

Regards
Ian
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#10 Post by Ian Sutton » July 11th, 2018, 4:54 pm

p.s. In general much of what you say is sensible, and I think there are some very sensible thoughts in there. It won't end up right, but it never would, so try to avoid ramping the cellar up too quickly

e.g. Set a limit of max cellar size for each year, say 200 for end of year 1; 250 for end of year 2; 300 for end of year 3 and so on.

This buys you plenty of wiggle room and avoids you having a cellar of the above and then discovering Loire Chenin Blanc or Valpolicella/Amarone and having no room left / getting caught in a buying spiral. As you'll see on these pages, buying is rather too easy!
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#11 Post by Sh@n A » July 12th, 2018, 7:34 am

How do you think about allocating purchases among different retailers? I can't imagine I will turn into a top client for any retailer, but I imagine there must be some perks for being a regular customer (tastings, invitations, setting up tours when you visit vineyards, early looks on releases). Further, how can one identify those retailers that will be a good fit (is it just those local to you, or are some known to be particularly client friendly).
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#12 Post by Ian Sutton » July 12th, 2018, 12:26 pm

Hi Shon
It will vary person to person, but also strongly influenced by what is near you.

If you're aiming for some rare / blue chip wines, then there is some sense in picking a single merchant who allocates to regular customers. Otherwise shop around for the best price. I doubt there is much in it in the end, especially if you are flexible to avoid thinking of 'must have' wines.

If you end up wanting to try different wines rather than ploughing old favourites, then you'll probably end up buying from whoever has what interests you.

For the last question, it's again personal. Try them out and if the experience is good, then return. However those that run regular local tastings (especially those where you pay a fee to taste the wines on the theme, with a little food) are a good idea. Tasting widely is much better than looking up a point score to help you on your buying journey.
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Re: Starting a Cellar - Feedback Appreciated! Too long a post

#13 Post by Steve Bird » August 28th, 2018, 11:43 am

Ian Sutton wrote:
July 11th, 2018, 3:11 pm
Having a clear idea of why you want to cellar wine is a great starting point. It's remarkably hard to say what the end goal is though, as that does move. In 2 years time you may decide Burgundy is not your thing, but the wines of Spain and Portugal, plus Hunter Valley Semillon excite you.

For me the starting intention was similar, wanting more than just young wine, and wanting to invest time and money in cellaring wine, to hopefully reap rewards later.

What happened was I got through the early cellaring wines too quickly, as nothing was ready/mature, so I drank what was there and nothing was hitting proper maturity. In time as the cellar grew from 100 bottles to 200 and has since doubled again, I've been able to let some sleep properly. In addition, buying at auction was a big help (and also from a couple of other sources of aged wine). Having pre-aged wines available protected my cellar from drinking too young, but also helped inform me about what I sought in aged wines. My palate experience also broadened and changed, so what I was cellaring originally is quite different to what I cellar now.

Anyway, you've asked for feedback, so I'll offer the following:
- Utilise the idea of 'cellar defenders'. These are either pre-matured wines bought retail / auction / here, or tasty younger wines that don't demand cellaring to show well. These wines are there to stop you reaching for an overly young Barolo or Pauillac etc. Aim to have enough so there's always something interesting and ready to hand, and replace frequently. This avoids going to the cellar and pronouncing hat of a few hundred bottles 'nothing's ready!'. What I'm saying is bump the 25 drink young wines up quote a bit (maybe double), and get a few more older wines as well (maybe double that 20).
- You've aimed for a fairly classic selection. It's often the way, with people cellaring what is widely seen as the great cellaring wines. However there are plenty of other wines that reward cellaring, and you may find these appeal more and at a cheaper price. Don't be afraid to experiment be that with Dao, Cabardes, Madiran, Hunter Shiraz, and hundreds of other good options. Having wines that cellar well and are inexpensive can be just as rewarding as the prestige stuff.
- Half bottles are a great option for sampling & shaping your interests (and for midweek!). There's never enough of them though, and the range is often narrow, so when you see a good stash - pounce!
- Magnums conversely need enough people to make them sensible to open, so do get some, but not too many until you know you are going to drink them. Anything above can run the risk of there never being a suitable occasion, so they become ornaments, taking up useful cellar space.
- It can be easier to focus on buying one region until you're happy you've got a nice selection, then branch out. The grand plan is an option, but leaving flex really helps you to follow your own palate.
- Linked to the above, I found it useful to have 2-3 areas of focus, with maybe a dozen areas where I might be actively sampling, with the aim the favourites become a focus in their own right. Rinse and repeat.

Regards
Ian
These points are absolutely spot on! Taste a lot (using a Coravin can help with that), and focus on 2-3 areas of interest.

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#14 Post by Sh@n A » August 28th, 2018, 1:30 pm

[head-bang.gif] Thank you for all of these tips. Here's how I'm doing:
Despite best efforts, my cellar will be larger/faster than initially forecast. Bigger purchase volumes. Oddlot purchases have stacked up faster than I realized. [whistle.gif]

I have tapped winebid. and then tapped out. I knew about WineBid years ago, I wouldn't have so much regretful infanticide purchases at wine stores, and probably a lot more knowledge and value. Picked up 2 cases of various stuff... but what was much scarier was the pace... happened.so.fast. Bought some bottles that have age on them to be those "cellar defenders" / accessible now ... and then some lesser expensive stuff to try out. A lot of these options are new to me, so as to educate myself. E.G., an aged Beaucastel CdP, some Amarone, an aged Ridge (I actually lost this auction because I.was.not.focused). I will be back on WineBid at some point, but for now I have scratched an itch.

I have approached multiple retail stores at this point about their being my guide to buying, and host tastings to expedite my exploration. I am running into an issue where there is no perfect retail store. Those who are willing to be most helpful have the thinnest inventory. Already being warned about allocations I didn't expect to be warned on. Still fleshing out this retail strategy, but think I have a good sense for multiple stores at this point and their relative strengths.

Where I can, I have bought 375s (e.g. Bordeaux futures I picked up many). That said, I feel less pressure to do this with the reviews of Repour etc., technology will surely get only better 10 years out.

I do feel pressure to buy given the strength of recent vintages and my personal goal of long-term aging.

My immediate goals are:
- Get smarter in Barolo/Barbaresco to hone in producers & retailers that can source them for the 2016 vintage
- Get smarter on Rhone given the price escalation; I need to be smarter
- Figure out my basic Burg strategy
- Get my spouse more involved to better ascertain her tastes
- I want to start a tasting group, but am not sure exactly how to go about this.

Lastly, I now view my purchases as having three waves.
Wave 1: buy today
Wave 2: sell on Commerce Corner
Wave 3: Buy more
After typing this out, I realized my strategy is analogous to a "puke and rally"...

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Re: Starting a Cellar - Feedback Appreciated! Too long a post

#15 Post by Ian Sutton » August 28th, 2018, 4:08 pm

Hi Shon
Yes, no surprise that buying is happening faster than expected. It's normal, though good to recognise it so you can manage it.

Glad you're finding lots of half bottles. As well as being very sensible for weeknights, and a great way of 'sampling' in the comfort of you own home, I also find they are great at filling up small gaps in my (intentionally) limited storage [wink.gif]

Do beware that pressure to buy due to the strength of recent vintages. It's only partly in jest that we say there is a 'vintage of the century' every 3-4 years. The industry is well-versed in hype, with too many critics eager practitioners.

For Barolo/Barbaresco, it might pay to be sampling Langhe Nebbiolo wines from prospective purchases for 2015/16 vintages. These wines aren't always the best of guides, but some give more than a hint of the house style. These cheaper wines will also serve as good 'cellar defenders', aimed at being a first line of defence when reaching for a bottle. They allow the grander wines a little more sleeping time. A trip to the region is recommended if ever looking for a European holiday.

Very good to get your spouse involved. For us that means more Pomerol & Chardonnay than I'd personally choose, but a hobby shared means give and take. That said, our tastes are often similar (except for my love of rather old wines - in that I'm on my own).

Starting a tasting group isn't obvious. Having some friends who share an interest can be an option. Invite them round for a winetasting evening (plenty of tips available here) and see if it ignites an interest. Also check the offline planner here, or keep a lookout for local events. Sometimes it's a chance conversation at such an event, or even in a wine shop, that can trigger an interest to organise an event. Sometimes wine shops may even run their own, and again these can spin off into a tasting group.

Regards
Ian
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Re: Starting a Cellar - Feedback Appreciated! Too long a post

#16 Post by Sh@n A » August 28th, 2018, 9:46 pm

Ian Sutton wrote:
August 28th, 2018, 4:08 pm
A trip to the region is recommended if ever looking for a European holiday.
Planning a family trip there in '21, but may need to head there sooner for "research"

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#17 Post by Eric Ifune » August 31st, 2018, 4:32 pm

The longer you drink wine, the more you appreciate whites which age.

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Re: Starting a Cellar - Feedback Appreciated! Too long a post

#18 Post by Sh@n A » August 31st, 2018, 6:48 pm

Eric Ifune wrote:
August 31st, 2018, 4:32 pm
The longer you drink wine, the more you appreciate whites which age.
Unfortunately, I am finding myself allergic to many whites. I should start a new thread on the main board to seek the advice of the professionals as to reasons why!

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#19 Post by Mattstolz » August 31st, 2018, 8:11 pm

I was also wondering about the whites. especially if youre thinking about aging, German Rieslings are hard to match.

my only thought is that your plan is fairly limiting. for example, no you didn't mention any new world wines to hold. you also dont have any new world Rhones, new world cabs to hold, zinfandel, right bank bordeaux, anything from spain, etc. with a plan as set out as this, you either have to be ready to add more space on it as you discover other wines you like, or swap out bottles for them.

also worth mentioning that if you have a 480 bottle cellar, whether you are allergic to whites or not probably it should contain at least a decent number of them. chances are youre not gonna consume all these wines alone, and certain occasions are just gonna occur where bubbles or white burg or riesling are appropriate.

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Re: Starting a Cellar - Feedback Appreciated! Too long a post

#20 Post by Sh@n A » August 31st, 2018, 8:40 pm

I think 480 will ultimately end up at ~600. This will allow for the additional bottles (and your point on whites is valid, because it is possible this allergy one day goes away!).
Your point on adding space/swapping out for the other bottles is where my head is at, currently.

Thank you for the thoughts!

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