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5 Things You Spend On, Then Never Use

Wine cellars
So, you fancy yourself something of a wine connoisseur.

You are not alone.

The U.S. surpassed France last year as the world's largest wine-consuming nation, with wine shipments to the U.S. from California, other states and foreign producers growing 2% from the previous year to nearly 330 million cases, a record high for the industry. That's according to the Wine Institute, an organization that represents the California wine industry. The statistics were determined by wine industry consultants Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates in Woodside.

The estimated retail value of these sales was $30 billion, up 4% from 2009. Total French consumption was 320.6 million cases in 2010. California wine accounted for a 61% volume share of the total U.S. wine market, with sales at 199.6 million cases.

A lot of you readers are drinking more wine, more often. Well, perhaps you may be able to tell Boones Farm from Beaujolais nouveau, but will you commit to studying grape varietals and dish pairings with enough vigor and longevity for it to be more than just a passing hobby or occasional indulgence?

If plunging into the world of wine proves to be destined for that ill-advised attempt at home brewing -- the buckets and bottles still litter your basement -- perhaps you need to think twice.

A "passive" cellar is no biggie -- all you need is to install shelves in an otherwise suitable basement. An "active" cellar will require remodeling and electronics to maintain a temperature of 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit and relative humidity of 40% to 70%. Getting fancy with glass and wood cases could set you back thousands (and that doesn't even include plunking down potentially hundreds per bottle of vino).

Even a small-scale, electric storage unit will require an outlay.

A Cuisinart electric wine cellar will cost between $150 and $350. The 21-bottle Caso Wine Cellar at Williams-Sonoma (WSM) has a suggested retail price of $650 (but can be ordered for a bit less, $479.95).

For those serious about wine and prepared to grow that interest over a lifetime, this all may be money well spent. But if, ultimately, that wine cellar finds itself filled with Dr Pepper (DPS) instead of chablis, it will be money poured away.

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