Ghislain Caron is a sommelier by profession. An excellent communicator, he is the recipient of several prestigious awards, including the 2004 Ruinart Trophy for Best Sommelier of the Americas. In 2004 he also represented Canada at the Best Sommelier in the World convention, which took place in Greece.
What products should you buy when building a cellar?
A nice cellar is a diversified cellar. It should contain a little of everything: Monday night bottles at $20, Saturday night bottles at $35 and bottles for important occasions and major celebrations. You should also make sure to have on hand a few bottles for when friends and family drop by for a surprise visit: white wine, sparking wine and dessert wine.
How many bottles should you buy when starting out?
I recommend buying at least three bottles of each wine. This quantity will allow you to taste your wine while it’s young and to confirm that you actually still like it as it ages.
What is the best way to proceed, all while respecting a budget?
After 20 years in the wine industry, I’ve developed the 3-for-1 rule. For every bottle you open, you buy three more in the same price range, but not necessarily from the same region or country. This way, you track your consumption closely and your cellar grows at a reasonable pace.
How do you know when a bottle is ready to be opened?
I know some wine enthusiasts who are currently enjoying 2009 Bordeaux reds, while I prefer them aged a little longer. Some people appreciate Bourgogne whites when they are a little more aged, more complex in profile. Personally, I prefer to enjoy them while they are still relatively young. Right now, I am savouring the 2008 vintage. My advice is to taste wines at different stages of the aging cycle. For some wines, it will be a major revelation!
What can we learn from the vintage chart?
The Vintage Chart is a pretty handy guide. It helps you keep notes on your cellar inventory, allows you to track the evolution of your bottles and makes balancing your purchases a whole lot easier. For example, if 70% of my bottles are set to reach their drinking peak in 2020 according to the Vintage Chart, then I’ll ask my sommelier to suggest wines that will be good to drink in 3 to 5 years from now. That way my cellar remains well balanced.
Why is it a good idea to create vertical or even horizontal wine tastings when starting a cellar?
A vertical tasting (same estate, different vintage) is great for celebrating a birth or a wedding anniversary. Or because you really enjoy a particular estate, château or vintage, and you want to observe its evolution or compare it in the company of other wine enthusiasts. A horizontal tasting (different producers, same year) is great when you want to compare local products, take note of the differences between estates within a same region or domain. By doing so, you can really understand the work that went into a particular vintage or learn to identify the style of a particular estate.
And your philosophy is…?
It’s better to drink a young wine that you’ve let breathe in a carafe for 30 minutes, than a wine that has aged too much. Sometimes, we tend to wait for that “special occasion” that never comes!
What’s your vision of an interesting cellar?
I’ll take my cellar as an example. Twenty years ago, I bought several bottles of Bordeaux reds, from the Rhône valley, Spain and the United States. Over time, my tastes shifted and I began enjoying wines from Bourgogne, both reds and whites, as well as wines from Tuscany and Piedmont.
Do you always drink the same wines?
No. The wine selection in our home is pretty varied. We try at least two new wines every month. That way we get to discover new things. Even though I am a sommelier, I still like to be guided by the SAQ advisors. They’re excellent and always help me discover some great new bottles!