The Wine Blog

5 Rules for Starting a Wine Collection

June 9, 2014

starting a wine collectionThere comes a turning point in every wine drinker’s life, when they become a wine lover.

Suddenly, you know what you like and what you don’t and you can articulate it. Wine lists are a joy to peruse. Geeking out with the sommelier is your new favorite pastime.

And then the lightbulb goes off – hey man, I should have a cellar!  Starting a wine collection can be both exciting and overwhelming. It can also break the budget pretty fast… but it doesn’t have to. There are a many affordable options to get you started. We’ve come up with a few tips.

 Starting a Wine Collection Rule #1: Know your budget & the expenses

Contrary to popular belief: starting a wine collection does not mean that you have limitless disposable income. There are many ways to keep your cost down (see rules below) and remember, this is not go hard or go home – a case or two packed with some worthy selections is truly all you need to start a wine collection.

 Starting a Wine Collection Rule #2: Know what makes a wine “cellar worthy”

There are many qualities that can make a wine age-worthy, but does that mean that it is right for YOUR cellar? Remember, always buy what you like. If you simply cannot stomach the wine now, you very well may not enjoy it in 20 years (no matter how high the ratings). Having said that, there are certain qualities that a wine must possess to stand the test of time:

  • High Acidity Acidity is what makes your favorite wine so mouth wateringly enjoyable. As wine ages, acidity decreases, and wines can turn flabby (think of lemonade without enough lemon juice). Set your cellar up for success with wines that are on the higher end of the spectrum.
  • High Tannin Tannins provide structure to reds, as well as some oak aged whites, and act as a natural preservative in wine. Wines with more of this delightful grippy quality are likely to age more effectively (although as many a Riesling demonstrates, this is not a requirement for proper aging).  Although some wines with lots of tannins can feel almost oppressively dry when they are young, they will mellow and smooth out over time.
  • Alcohol: This is a tricky one, as we actually have two different rules. Fortified wines like Ports, Sherries and Madeiras (AKA wines that have been boosted with alcohol before or after the fermentation process) are designed to age. However, for unfortified wines, look to keep the alcohol level below 13%. Anything 14% or higher will mean that your wines will eventually turn into vinegar.
  • More Residual Sugar: As much as we cherish our fine dry wines, dessert wines provide some of the best values for prospective collectors. Check out Ports, Sherries, and botrytized wines like Tokaj, Sauternes, and Trockenberenauslese rieslings for serious steals.

 Starting a Wine Collection Rule  #3: Storage

So once you have your wine , you can just store it in your basement, right? Well, it truly depends on how cellar-worthy your cellar is. If the humidity is 75%,  the temperature hovers between 50 and 58 degrees, and it stays that way year round, then it is certainly worth considering. If on the other hand, those conditions are somewhat conditional, it might be worth looking into a wine fridge for your finer wines or even into an offsite storage locker. Additionally, keeping them out of site will ensure that are not tempted to show them off all the time. Vibrating and moving your bottles will speed up the aging process.

 Starting a Wine Collection Rule #4: Do not fear the “off” vintages

These wines can be stellar values. Just because a critic does not think that this wine possesses perfect aging potential, does not mean that it will not be delicious, complex and fascinating for years to come. As per rule #2, always trust your gut when deciding on wines to add to your cellar.

 Starting a Wine Collection Rule #5 Carpe Diem!

If you have something that you truly love now, it might be worth exploring the relationship and see where it goes. Buy a case now, and see how it progresses over the years. Plus sheer supply and demand means that as the years progress, there will be less and less available, which will further drive up the price. Act now and avoid the price increase.

Looking for some inspiration to get you started?


bottom photo credit: eastmidtown via photopin cc