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Published: Tuesday, 2/6/2007

Why not create a wine cellar of your own?

Many a wine-lover treasures a personal cellar. It may be as modest as three or four cherished bottles or a couple of cases.

But these leisurely selected varieties, and what will be uncorked with family and friends, are a reflection on the owner's taste.

At the same time, there are good reasons for you to consider the merits of assembling a personal cellar. It doesn't have to be a reflection of snobbery because it is just a section of the pantry, after all.

Your choices at one period of your life may focus on, say, Australian wines, and as these wines become a major segment of world wine production, you'll be indulging in self-education, learning what to place in your cellar and what's a fair retail price.

Books and retail programs contribute to this easy learning, but it's your experience, and the more you know, the better prepared you'll be.

Finding a place to keep your personal stash may be difficult. Old World castles and massive fortresses were blessed with cellars deep under the building foundations. Modern instruments appear to find that ideal cellar temperatures - about 54 degrees Fahrenheit - are stable in unheated subterranean rooms.

Keeping your cellar at or about an ideal temperature is less important, so far as wine is concerned, than vibration and light. What is a threat to the quality of a cellar is temperature shock. A good, uncapped, quality wine will survive temperatures rising gently upward to the mid-50s, downward to just above freezing. Vibration - the unfelt, steady hum of an air-conditioner, for example - causes damage that often is overlooked.

Alongside red, white, and rose wines, it would be reasonable to add a sparkling wine that can serve as a pepper seasoning if ground pepper is not strong enough to temper a spicy dish. Most producers of sparkling wines offer more than one grade, and a sparkler from anywhere else than the French Champagne region - California or Ohio, for example - may be just effective.

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