It is second nature for most French people, and especially for most Burgundians, to put down and age certain bottles of wine in order to be able to pull them out an enjoy them down the road.
Almost every child born in Burgundy has several bottles of wine bottled in their birth year put down for them, as well as bottles put down to commemorate their christenings, holy communions, passing their Bacs, and all the other myriad of rites of passage in their French lives.
Franck and I put down several bottles that we had received as wedding gifts (one of the advantages of getting married in Burgundy!) and have since enjoyed many of them at our girls’ baptisms.
For me, opening a bottle of symbolic (not to mention sublimely aged, if you’re lucky) wine imparts any rite of passage with extra meaning. In putting the wine down you are betting on a joyous future filled with celebrations and loved ones to share them with. The act of opening a bottle of cellared wine recognizes that this optimistic view of the future has, fortuitously, come true.
Besides, I hate fruitcake.
The day before he left to go back to Canada my Dad transferred most of his wine from our house here at La Maison des Chaumes to his new slot at the Caveau du Relais du Vieux Beaune wine cellar.
Now his wine will be safe from both temperature variations and his thirsty daughter and son-in-law. My Dad has wisely locked the metal gate over his store of wine, and pocketed his key.
However my Dad, who was in a particularly magnanimous mood, marked his wine stash as belonging to “The Bradbury Family”, and declared that the wine is for the whole family to enjoy, whenever they want. He is a very brave man if he isn’t worried that Franck and I might not take him up on this. Just look at all that Grand Cru Chablis…
In any case, it is always meaningful to be pull out a bottle of aged wine for a special occasion; a wedding, a baptism, an engagement, or even just a sublime Sunday meal with friends.
Before you pull out your bottles though, you must cellar the wine in the first place.
It is my belief that while a cellar is ideal, it is by no means necessary. Any cool place with minimal temperature variations and the highest possible level of humidity will do…
Poke around in your own closets and basement and see if you can’t find such a place in your home. If not, survey your relatives and / or friends’ houses – the ones you would trust with your life, thus your wine – to see if they don’t possess such a spot.
The next step is to acquire a few bottles of wine that have every chance of aging well. Although many red and white Bordeaux and Burgundies (and yes, I’m totally biased) come to mind, there are also excellent New World wines that age extremely well.
If in doubt consult one of your oenophile friends, who undoubtedly will have very strong and entertaining opinions on the subject, or the staff at your favorite local wine store.
Make sure you lie your wine bottles on their sides, just like you’re putting them to sleep. Shut off the light and let them snooze away.
And as for choosing the ideal moment to draw out your hidden treasures to share with the world…believe me, just like falling in love, your gut and your Frenchitude will just know it.
In Vino Veritas!