WINES: Starting A Cellar

Adam Arlen

, Happy Hour

Fine wine has outperformed more traditional investments over the last few decades. However, there are many factors to consider when starting your own collection.

Storage considerations

When starting a collection, you not only have to consider the price of the wine, but also you must allocate funds to your storage. A big piece of fine wine collecting is having proper storage at 55 degrees for long-term storage. This can be accomplished a few different ways. For smaller collections, you can purchase a dedicated wine cooler with capacity up to about 300 bottles, depending on the shape of the bottle. Most manufacturers will state bottle capacities for standard Bordeaux bottles (Cabernet/Merlot). If you are a Chardonnay/Pinot Noir drinker, your capacity will be reduced. Don’t waste your money on a dual zone cooler. It will add about $500 to the cost of the unit. You only need to pop the bottle of white in the fridge for 15 minutes.

For larger collections, a dedicated wine cellar is the way to go. There are many options here as well. The best time to construct a wine cellar in your home is in the building or remodeling phase. There are a few companies that will assist in designing the storage for the space. Refrigeration is a must for the space. 

How to stock your cellar

My recommendation is to break down your storage like this: 50% weekday wines, 30% weekend wines, 10% special occasion wines — think birthday/anniversary, and 10% holy grail wines for long-term storage. I also recommend to fill it to only 70% total capacity. The best part of having a wine collection is the shopping. This will allow you to have space to grow and taste new things.

I also advise people to label their bottles using the stop light method. This will help prevent the kids from pulling out that special bottle you have been holding for a special occasion.

Green:  Everyday wines, go ahead and pull it.

Yellow: Weekend wines, ask me first.

Red: Special occasion wines, DON’T TOUCH IT!

If you have a larger collection in a walk-in cellar, you may forgo the green stickers on the bottles and just use yellow and red. You can also use elevation in your cellar. By putting the red-stickered bottles up high, you put them out of reach and harder to pull. As with merchandising, things at chest- or eye-level will move the fastest!












Photos courtesy of


Adam Arlen, Sommelier


Adam Arlen: “I am passionate about wine because it is history in a bottle.” He is the sommelier for The Peninsula Club in Cornelius, NC. Originally from Allentown, PA, he believes you should always branch out and find new things. His goal is to never stop learning and continuing to grow both personally and professionally. A fun fact about him: “I was a nuclear engineer on a submarine in a previous life.”





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