How to start a wine cellar 

A sommelier’s guide to collecting wine - from storage solutions to topical tipples 

Beginning her professional career in media, Wieteke Teppema changed direction in 2006 to become a commis sommelier at Prism Restaurant in the City before stints at two Michelin-starred restaurants The Square and The Ledbury. In 2019, Teppema opened Gezellig, a wine-focused restaurant and bar in Holborn. 

Wieteke Teppema 

Where to Start 

The world of wine is vast and confusing with many rabbit holes to go down. To narrow your selection, focus on one red grape and one white grape that you like, or one region you love. 

How to Store 

The days of large stately homes with deep vaulted cellars are gone. In London, we tend to be flat dwellers and as such finding suitable storage space for wine can be difficult. Wine is a fairly delicate creature. The ideal temperature to store wine at is 13-14 degrees; it doesn’t like sunlight, heat or excessive humidity/dryness, which can damage the cork and spoil the wine – which means kitchens are wine killers. Throw away that rack on top of your cupboard and instead invest in a small wine fridge. This will offer you a temperature controlled space to store your wine. Once your collection has outgrown your fridge, you can consider opening an account at a Bonded Warehouse. Many merchants will sell you a case of wine and deliver it straight into your warehouse account. For a small annual fee, your wine can be correctly stored until you are ready to drink it. 

Gezellig Restaurant Bar 
Gezellig Restaurant - Opened in Grade II Listed Holborn Hall in 2019

Who to Buy From 

Developing a relationship with an independent wine shop is a good start. Ask what they are excited about or what they would recommend – they know their selection best. Once you trust their recommendations you can broaden your horizons. Many shops will host small tastings that will give you an opportunity to try new wines and see what you like. Lea & Sandeman, Bottle Apostle and Humble Grape are oenophile favourites. 

The internet gives you a lot of options and merchants tend to specialise in certain countries – one may delve deep into the delights of German Riesling while another highlights South African specialities. The Wine Society (thewinesociety.com), Woodwinters (woodwinters.com), Howard Ripley (howardripley.com) and Stannary Wines (stannarywine.com) are all good places to start. 

Start with a few different bottles and narrow down which grape or region you prefer. Once you find a wine you like you can invest in a case. Wines by the case are cheaper than by the bottle – plus, you have the added benefit of drinking the same wine over the course of a number of years and seeing how it evolves. 

How to Serve 

Keep opened wines in the fridge (even reds – just get them out 30 minutes before you want to drink them). This will slow down the rate at which the flavours oxidise. Be aware that not all wine is built to age, and some are better young, when they have all their fresh, crunchy fruit flavours. 

When it comes to drinking, be sure to buy some nice glasses. Larger glasses that taper at the top allow the aromas to stay within the glass. If you keep your glasses stored in a box, wash them before you pour in the wine. 

You don’t need a fancy crystal decanter if you want to aerate your wine – a jug will do. Simply pour the wine into the jug, and pour back into the bottle when you’re ready to serve. Magnums (2x 750ml bottles in one) are great fun for parties, especially Rieslings from Germany. 

Gezellig Restaurant & Bar, 193-197 High Holborn, gezellig.co.uk