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A Vine Investment 

Splurging on a bottle of bubbly and opening it immediately is one of life's pleasures. But a wine not meant to be opened right away — one that gets better with age or one meant to be saved for a special occasion, for instance — needs to be stored properly. One way to preserve wine is by investing in a wine storage system.

  "For a lot of people, (buying wine storage) is about protecting investments already made," says Antoinette Theriot-Heim, appliance specialist at Nordic Kitchens and Baths (4437 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-2300; www.nordickitchens.com), which provides custom design services and appliances, including a variety of wine storage systems. "As people get more and more into wine, it's almost like the stock market."

  Nordic carries wine storage appliances from luxury brands like Gaggenau and Sub-Zero, but wine storage can be as simple or as extravagant as the customer desires. "I usually try to fit wine storage with the type of wine drinker the person is," Theriot-Heim says. Wine storage systems can be as small as a Liebherr countertop unit that holds 12 bottles or as large as the Sub-Zero WS-30 that holds 147 bottles, with prices ranging from $1,150 to $7,500.

  There are two types of wine storage appliances: freestanding and built-in units. A customer's wine-drinking habits dictate which type to purchase. "Some clients say, 'We want something that can show wine off, but we're not going to keep it in the unit for more than a month,'" says Nordic owner Randall Shaw. "Sometimes clients are collectors who want something that can hold wine for long periods of time — they're best getting a built-in unit."

  A built-in unit blends easily with its surroundings when incorporated into a larger kitchen design.

  "We can do framing (on the units) to match the cabinetry for a true built-in look," Shaw says. "It doesn't jump out and say 'I'm a wine cellar.'"

  For oenophiles who want quality wine storage but aren't as serious about collecting and storing bottles for very long periods of time, a stand-alone unit is a good option. Theriot-Heim says it's important to remember that a stand-alone storage unit is exactly that — it's not meant be incorporated into cabinetry.

  "I come across ... people looking for less expensive wine storage, but (they) still want to have it built into cabinets. You can't go to ... big box stores and buy units and put them in between cabinets," she says.

  Because of the way these models are ventilated — out the back of the unit — they can damage cabinetry and wear out sooner. Built-in models need to have front-side ventilation.

  No matter which model a customer chooses, Theriot-Heim recommends two essential features for any wine storage system. "Any decent wine storage unit has UV-protected glass," Theriot-Heim says. Dark wine bottles are a good defense, but UV rays can still penetrate and spoil wines.

  Wine storage units also should have two different temperature zones, especially if you enjoy drinking different types of wines. Theriot-Heim says there is a big difference between the proper temperature for storing sparkling wines (the coldest) and deep red wines (the warmest), and temperatures vary among white and red wines.

  High-end wine storage appliances offer a wide array of features for serious collectors — everything from moisture control settings to security systems. Some of these appliances include anti-vibration features to keep wine stabilized amid compressor and motor vibrations, humidifiers to keep corks moist, and even locks and the capability to connect to one's home security system in the event of a sudden temperature drop or if the kids attempt to infiltrate the unit.

  "That's more for the definitive collectors," Theriot-Helm says.

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