WHERE DO YOU store your wine?
Do you have a wine cellar, or do you push a few bottles into your liquor cabinet or keep them on a wine rack above the refrigerator?
How much wine must you have before you feel the need for a wine cellar?
In the first place, a wine cellar does not have to be in a cellar. It can be any place in your home where you can keep the wine near 60 degrees with a minimum of light or vibration.
Above the refrigerator is one of the worst places -- it's usually too warm.
The most common reason for having a wine cellar used to be to avoid having no wine available if friends dropped in. You were advised that rushing a bottle home from the store "shocked" the wine, which needed a rest before serving.
Those arguments still hold, but there is another reason that has been forced upon wine lovers by economics. At one time, retail wine shops would buy wines upon release to be kept for several years and sold only when the wines had matured. This meant that the store owners had to keep an inventory that became more and more expensive as wine prices climbed.
Now, many French chateaux and California wineries, such as Robert Mondavi, are offering "futures" in which you can purchase their wines at reasonable release prices. By buying such futures, you may later enjoy a wine when it could be selling for $30 to $50 or more.
Paul Wyatt, president of the Fine Wine Rack & Cellar Co., has lots of advice about keeping wines properly. Heat is the No. 1 enemy, he says.
"The experts agree," he says, "that the ideal temperature is 57 degrees. At this temperature, the wine will age slowly over the years, bringing out all the desirable characteristics of age and losing little of the more fragile elements such as fruitiness."
Western New York does not get much of the blistering weather that can damage wine. With our temperate seasons, it is easy to find a place in your home where the temperature varies little during the year. Basements, dark closets or even a spare room may be suitable.
Changing temperatures cause more damage than a steady warm temperature. Some wine lovers install air conditioning, but Wyatt warns that air conditioning without humidity controls can do more harm than good. He notes that humidity is critical to wine preservation.
Wyatt brings up another point that is neglected by many wine experts. If the air is too dry, osmosis robs the wine of its water molecules. Vapor pressure within the bottle remains at 100 percent, but the lower the pressure outside, the higher the rate of osmosis.
Wyatt feels that corks, foil and lead capsules will not prevent this occurrence.
Most wine is put into green or brown bottles to stop ultraviolet radiation from light from destroying color and flavor. That is why you should always store your wines in the dark.
How do you know which wines to lay down in your cellar? Wyatt urges you to buy wines in case lots for a while. He advises you to open one bottle, drink it, and take careful notes.
Six months later, open another bottle, etc., etc. You soon will learn whether that particular wine will improve by aging and should tailor your purchases accordingly.
When you find a wine you like, buy it early so you can enjoy it when prices rise.
Hermann J. Wiemer, owner of one of New York state's leading wineries, is joining in a venture to export some of his wines to Germany.
A graduate of Germany's famous Geisenheim Institute, Wiemer brought his winemaking skill here 20 years ago. Now Wiemer and Johannes Neckermann, scion of a German mercantile empire, are introducing their co-produced 1988 Chateau Neckermann Chardonnay to the German market.
Their work has attracted the interest of international wine experts, including Prince Leopold of Bavaria. He made a special journey to the Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard near Geneva, in the Finger Lakes region, to taste and purchase a barrel for private use among the German jet set.
Matching of wines with appetizers and desserts will be the subject of a wine seminar to be held by the Buffalo chapter of the Wine & Food Society, Friday at 8 p.m. at Calasanctius School.
After a quaffing period with Piper Sonoma Blue Moon Sparkling Wine and 1990 DuBoeuf Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau, Burt Notarious of Premier Center will lead seminar discussions.
Sampled with various appetizers will be 1989 DuBoeuf Cotes du Rhone Domaine des Aires Vielles, 1988 Deiss Riesling Bennwihr, 1985 Cadillac and 1989 Lucien Sancerre Clos de la Crele.
Tasted with a selection of desserts will be 1086 Romer du Hayot Sauternes, 1988 Sichel Beerenauslese Deidesheimer Hofstuck and 1987 Burgess Zinfandel.
For reservations, call 885-8508.
Have a question about wine? Write Bill Murray in care of The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240. Questions of general interest will be answered here.