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Storing and Curating: A Home Cellar

James Suckling

Lesson time 14:38 min

James shares professional tips on how to design and organize a home cellar, properly store and age important bottles, and collect with confidence.

James Suckling
Teaches Wine Appreciation
Flavor, aroma, and structure—Learn from wine master James Suckling as he teaches you to appreciate the stories in every bottle.
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So this is my personal cellar. I come to it every day, checking out bottles, organizing things. This summer we've already tasted 4,000 wines from Italy. There's some really cool things, like some, let's see, 2004 Brunello which, as you know, is one of the best wines of Italy. It's made close by to here. A pure Sangiovese, aged a minimum of two years in barrels and released after five years. The wine is drinking beautifully now at 2004. I'm sure it's going to age for another 10, 20, 30 years. But when you're thinking about storing wines and putting together a cellar, it doesn't have to be all these bottles. You can start off with a few bottles. I remember when I started collecting wine, I had a few cases under my bed. The important thing in cellaring wine is to make sure the temperature remains stable. Ideally, it should be under 20 degrees centigrade. The humidity should be about 60% to 68%. You don't want to have too much humidity, because then you have problems with the labels coming off. But you need humidity, because if you don't, the corks will dry and you'll have a seepage problem. The wine will spoil or it'll age prematurely. I think that sometimes people pay too much attention to temperature. I think there is an upper limit, but the lower limit is much less of a problem. I mean, I've been in cellars in Bordeaux, like at Chateau Ausone, where it was about 10 degrees centigrade forever. That's really cold. And the wines didn't really seem to age very quickly. Which is great if you're going to live 100 years, but really, I don't think that's necessary for most of us. So I like to keep my temperature, ideally, at 18. It doesn't change a lot. Because if you have a lot of change, then sometimes you have expansion of the cork in the bottle. And when it-- when it expands, then regresses, then you can have seepage. Wine could start coming out, because the cork will lose its elasticity. So be careful with that. You might also think, well, how do I organize it? I mean, sure, it's easy with 10 bottles, 20 bottles. But what do you do if you have 500 like this? You can put them by categories, Italian. Break it down Tuscany, Barolo, Southern Italy. Like here is all Italian. And I know that they're mostly 2006 and 2004 here. If I had more time, I might go through every bottle, have it on a spreadsheet. Number each hole and understand exactly where each bottle is. Or you could use a really cool thing like Cellar Tracker, where you can do the whole thing like that, and then you can compare it with tasting notes that they have in the system. But there's a number of systems like that out there. For me, I've always been more free form, and I tend to remember where wines are. Like for example, the Sassicaia I've been waiting to taste this for a long time. This actually has an old number of it from a tasting I did years ago, and it was a young wine. Or also, I know that there is a Paolo Scavino Rocche dell'Annunziata ...

Discover the story in every bottle

Called one of the “world’s most powerful wine critics,” James Suckling has tasted more than 200,000 wines over the past 40 years. In his wine tasting MasterClass, James tours legendary Tuscan vineyards and teaches you to explore the stories, history, and people behind every bottle. Deepen your knowledge of the properties in each sip, cultivate your passion, and choose, order, and pair wines with confidence.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Great class !! Not only did it increased my wine knowledge but it also sparked my curiosity of trying different wine.

This Masterclass helped broaden my knowledge on wines and wine culture. It was informative and I enjoyed the delivery, it was the next best thing to actual being in the places that James was.

It was a great introduction to wine tasting and appreciation. I enjoyed it very much!

Excellent class, I didn't want it to end. I learned more terms, how to store, but more importantly, there is no rigid standard to pairing wine and food. I now feel free to explore and let my taste buds decide what I like.


Mark S.

I don't see what year this presentation was made!? It's hard to relate the time frames unless we know that. Like how old are these wines he is drinking?


Very interesting! Question: How do you know which are the good years? Also, if it's a good year for a particular cellar does that translate wines for that area/region also being good?

Vanessa W.

I liked it. Well what I got from it. It just simply "aborted" that's the message I got. Anyway, I'd like to see another lesson on wine and food. Like which goes well with which dish and why. Also, what's this business with red wine and "breathing"? Why should it be done, for how long, and is it across the board rule for all of them?

Trace M.

2 stars instead of 1 because he mentions the software to track your wine cellar. At least at the point that I stopped watching, he hadn't explained why his wine cellar has a window, and how the light and insulation leak from that affect his collection. Why show us his personal wine cellar if only to note that it's totally without organization, he manages it by memory? And show us all these precariously stacked bottles in the background for which he hasn't even made room. Randomly selecting bottles and talking about that one bottle is like "name dropping," essentially. Am I here to learn, or here to admire his personal Show & Tell session? Disappointed.

Brandon A.

I find it interesting that his aging room/cellar has a big window letting in a bunch of light. Wouldn't this potentially harm the wine due to UV oxidation?

Corey C.

Where would you buy collector wines? Also, what about having wines shipped? I worry about the temps of the truck and such...

Andrew Stephen L.

Any idea how much this may be worth? My friend said she found it unopened on a country walk!!! Lucky Find Wow it says Vintage 1811! x

A fellow student

Good information. I liked his contrasting screw cap wines, with wine which has a cork.

Chris S.

I love the idea of collecting wine or holding onto a wine for a special occasion. I have tried to collect some nice wines in the last year, also the first year of my marriage. When he says drink them young or you hear a wine will be great in 20 years, is that from the year they were grown or year the wine was bottled?

Kathy M.

I live in Sonoma county— wine and earthquake country. This cellar set up was so distracting for me. The walls looked like unreinforced brick and ruble, and the pyramid of wines stacked on top of the rack looked so precarious. A little 3.5 quake would be ruinous to this precious collection. I like the idea of collecting a bottle that connects with a memory of a special occasion.