• Wednesday, November 29, 2023
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A window into the soul


 Prominent wine connoisseurs and the occasional wine drinkers alike enjoy drinking a nice bottle of wine at home. While some people may buy one bottle at a time to drink, others may have a vast collection of wines which they need to properly store until they are ready to drink. Once you have spent money on fine wine, you want to be able to care for it so that it doesn’t spoil before you drink it. Every bottle of wine, regardless of its vintage or variety, deserves proper storage and care. There are critical issues in building a cellar which include the vapour barrier, insulation and cooling system.

Modern home designers are now giving prominence to the wine need of the owners by carving out a small wine cellar in their beautiful designs. All wine collectors, no matter how small their hoards, have cellar fantasies. Whether they keep wines in hall closets, in special coolers or any other place, they harbour the dream of a cellar of their own. For the wine collector, a collection is no mere cache of bottles but, even more than the eyes, a window into the soul.

For most people, of course, the wine cellar remains a fantasy. A select few maybe have achieved some portion of their dream, carving out a room to serve as their vinous retreat while others have not.

As a wine collector, Chibueze Kalu has a variety of wines that cut across different ages. Some of his collections include vintages such as the legendary 1929, 1945, 1961 and 1982. As a man who has the luxury of several rooms to himself at his Ajah home, he has devoted one of them entirely to the storage of wine. “I realise that the bar I have in the living room is not enough to store the bottles of wine I collect, hence I moved to the room in the attic. As a proper measure, I draw the curtains in the room apart for a cool, stable temperature. In all locations a container of water will help to maintain a slightly improved level of humidity, so I was advised by a friend sometime ago but because I wanted the perfect, long-term storage, a dedicated, insulated, humidity- and temperature-controlled air-conditioned room is the ideal which is what I have,” he says.

Sometime ago the custom wine cellar room was scarce; today more and more wine lovers are learning about wine cellar construction or contracting the work out to those who know how to do the job right. People have realised that a wine cellar increases the value of a home, just like redoing a kitchen or bathroom. Today’s custom wine cellar is a controlled environment where humidity and temperature are regulated to allow wine to accurately age without harm to corks, labels or the wine itself.

The solution, according to an increasing number of wine collectors, designers and cellar installation companies, is to have a room dedicated to wine collection. Tomi Akinrinade, owner of an interior decoration company, says a new internal space where fine wine meets cutting-edge interior designs is now the ideal. In many ways, a new internal bespoke wine room is the latest interpretation of the underground cellar. The crucial difference is that the former is now being cleverly and beautifully integrated into the home for multifunctional purposes.

The demand for wine cellars is increasing as growing numbers of people become knowledgeable, and even passionate, about wine. Yanju Ogunbiyi tells about his wine cellar: “I love to take wine and I have different types, especially red wine. My wife is not really into alcoholic wine so when I built my wine cellar, I put her into consideration. My wine cellar is a mixture of her type, my type and others that we serve our guests with. It is good to have a wine cellar at home. It is not a norm that only alcoholic wine must be placed on wine cellars. We have family friends who do not take alcohol and so do not serve it to their guests, but they have a wine cellar containing only non-alcoholic wine. And the truth is that it is beautifully displayed; in fact, they were part of my inspiration to build mine. Having a wine cellar helps you know where your choice is amidst a whole lot.”

The key to an effective wine cellar lies in organising your wines properly. While the smaller wine cellars may not need extensive organising, those who have larger wine collections will need to set up a system so they can locate each bottle without hassle. Some methods of organising wine may involve categorising them by: grape variety, region, vineyard and vintage.

It not just for status symbol or mere decoration, in-house cellar has a whole lot of function for wine lovers and discerning home owners. Its convenience, the food complementary function, the satisfaction and refreshment it give to the owners, are worth mentioning.

But wine lovers and those with great taste for exotic wines go out on their own to fix themselves wine cellars where there is none because of the importance they attach to good wine. Of course, a good wine complements good food, so why not have a cellar at home?

No matter how small the space allocated to the cellar is at home, the fact that it is there encourages wine lovers and even non-lovers to fill the in-house bar with whatever variety they can afford. A rich bar, they say, is the delight of the owner and true wine lovers like the Wole Soyinkas, Greg Onimoles and Utim Anyiams spend good money on their choice of wine.

Anyiam does not fill the cellar at his sprawling Ikoyi mansion with supplies from the regular market because most of his rare brands are not there. The array of wines such as Moet, Krug, champagne and a few variety of red wine in his cellar will never get finished before it is stocked again. He often buys them when he travels out of the country or he orders them. Both are expensive, but like a habit, taste for great wine cannot be compromised as long as the drinker lives and can also afford it. That is a big price, but the joy is that you get the quality that quenches a golden taste for wine even at the convenience of the cellar in the comfort of your home.

A rich wine cellar at home encompasses wines from the estates of some of the finest vineyards in France, Spain, Italy and the new world such as Mexico, South Africa and Asia, according to Angas Puritas, a former beverage manager with West African Hospitality Group, but a perfect cellar is one that parades the rare and most celebrated wines from both the new and the old world alongside some local brews for those who care for a taste of these local stuffs that are also refreshing in their own right.

It means that while in a friend’s house, one can ask and be served some Nigerian brews. But when it is all about exotic foreign wines, a foreign visitor with taste for the local brew or who just wants to try out the local stuff may be disappointed by the lack in your home cellar.

As a private culinary consultant, Puritas says a good and updated cellar at home offers a variety of services that can help a discerning owner define his specific wine needs. But the most important for him is the ability to sustain good food/wine pairing ideas. “Inasmuch as the cellar is at home, the owner, especially parents with teenagers, should make sure the underage do not have unauthorised access to the bar. Unauthorised access can get teenagers drunk or deny one satisfaction of his choice wine when he/she really needs it.”

Of course, he notes that those with functional and regularly updated wine cellars at home have better food or wine pairing concept than those with scanty wines in their cellars. “When you taste a particular wine and the taste did not go well with the food on the table, you change until you get a perfect match. But that is only possible when there is a whole lot to choose from in your cellar.”