Culinary Arts

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.

I really enjoyed learning about wines. I look forward to starting a collection. Thanks.

Knew most of this but nicely packaged and presented and good to llearn a few new things - eg linerarity, which I have often observed but didn’t know

This masterclass made me want to taste & appreciate more vines from more regions of the world. I've learned some of the jargon, some few tricks, and can't wait to use them.

Enjoyed it. But the same information can be found in his book and on the PBS show BBQ with Franklin.


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.


“Like, dude, hold these ten bottles for me, and when I come next time let’s drink them together.” Oh, I’m waiting...