In the April 2009 issue of Decanter magazine, Steven Spurrier says, "My definition of a complete cellar is the right wine for every occasion and mood..."
Very insightful. I think that sums it up perfectly - the perfect cellar isn't about having the most famous or expensive wines. It doesn't matter if you have a high-tech refrigeration system, to perfectly regulate temperature and humidity. It doesn't matter if you have custom wood frames and fancy specialized shelving. It can be cavernous, it can have an electronic inventory system, it can have all sorts of things. But none of that has anything to do with having a complete cellar.
I'm working on it. As per Spurrier, a complete cellar contains wines that can accommodate every event. Let's discuss. I have a friend who collects only Bordeaux. Great wines - grand, legendary, 100-year wines. Perfect for heavier foods, richer cuisine. But what about other foods? Chinese, Thai, Japanese cuisine? What about drinking in the heat of summer, when all you want is a nicely-chilled, high acid wine? And what about those occasions (birthdays, weddings, etc.) that require bubbly? Having only a very narrow cellar can fail you in those situations.
I'm trying to diversify my choices. The requisite, for collecting, is one or more of: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo. That's the foundation, because you need ageworthy wines to build a cellar. Everything past that is up to your personal tastes.
That's a lot of pontificating. Do I practice what I preach? Let's see...I have the most of Bordeaux - Left Bank and Right Bank wines, as well as white Graves and Sauternes. Of the rest, I have more of vintage Champagne, white Burgundy, German riesling, Chinon, Bandol, and Rioja. My quirk would be Niagara wines - pinot noir, chardonnay, and riesling.
I want to develop into red Burgundy, Barolo, Brunello, and New Zealand pinot noir. As well, more sweet/non-table wines - port, sherry, madeira.
The wines that intimidate me the most are Burgundy and Barolo. Just too many inconsistent producers, and these regions will cost a small fortune, to gain very little. But............a good Burgundy touches you in all the right places - I want to be touched.
Building a cellar requires more fiscal planning than saving for tuition. I'm sure my friends aren't complaining though, when bottles magically appear on the table. Santé!