How to Start a Wine Collection

So, you want to start a wine collection. Seems easy enough. Research and buy wine. Put it somewhere for a while. Enjoy. As simple as it sounds, there are challenges if you want to do it right. Where are you going to put it? How do you pick the right wine and how much of it do you want? These are the basics to consider, but once you have them down, you’ll find that collecting wine can be personally and gastronomically fulfilling.

Where to Put It

First thing’s first. If you’re going to be collecting wine, you’re going to need a place to keep it – in the basement, next to the furnace, is not an appropriate solution. Delicate wines need proper shade, temperature, and humidity in order to stay safe and develop properly. The last thing you want is to destroy the investment by not caring for them properly.

Unless you have access to an underground cave that maintains a constant 55 degrees, your best solution is to invest in specifically designed wine refrigerators and storage units. These come in a variety of sizes and are excellent at keeping consistent temperature and humidity to protect the wine from light, heat, and insuring the corks remain sealed for the long term.

Once you figure out your collection style and capacity needs (see below), you can go hunting for the right wine storage solution. There is a wide variety of wine coolers, ranging from single and dual zones to wine & beverage combo units. So be sure to do some research.

What Wine

Next, you better know what kind of wine you want to collect. Some wines age better than others and there is no reason to collect wines that you don’t like. Just ask yourself a few questions first. What wine do you like? Are there countries or regions you prefer? Do you want to go vertical, or by region and varietal?

There are few generalities to keep in mind:

  • Reds generally age better than whites, with the exception of some sparkling wines, German or Alsace Rieslings, Napa Valley Chardonnay, or White Burgundy. That said, collecting white wines for short term consumption is marvelous, allowing for purchasing, sharing, and enjoying young and crisp Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, or Vinho Verde each year during the warm summer months.
  • Bordeaux blends are some of the most “collectible” wines on the planet. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from France, California, and more recently, Australia, South Africa, and Chile offer great collection possibilities. Not only are many of these wines considered the best in the world, but how they are produced encourages aging to fulfill their potential.
  • Some regional red wines are specifically designed to age. Reserve Rioja from Spain, and many Riserva Barolo and Tuscan wines from Italy are aged for longer periods in new oak and are quite tannic, allowing for long and slow development in the cellar before opening.
  • Pinot Noir is a popular choice to collect, whether from Burgundy, California or Oregon, and many can age quite well, but the delicate nature of the grape makes aging Pinot more than 7-10 years a risky endeavor. That said, a collection of the finest Pinot Noir is akin to a selection of the finest art in the world.

How Much Wine

Next to consider is how much wine to get. This can get a bit tricky, too. How much wine do you drink? The math is pretty easy if you think about it.

Let’s say, between what you drink, what you share, and what you give as gifts, you consume 3 bottles of wine per week. That’s 150 bottles per year. Maybe you want half of those wines to be simple, no thought required, everyday wines, and the other half to be higher quality, collectible wines. That’s 75 wines to drink from your collection each year. Then, if you want your collection to have an average age of 5-10 years, then you need a collection of roughly 300 bottles (or more if you want to get really serious), with consistent purchasing and consuming to keep it sustainable.

There’s the money to think about, too. Wine can be expensive. Buying a couple hundred bottles of wine per year, some to store and some to drink, can run up a tab quickly. Making sure you have the budget is key. Save yourself some money by hunting for great deals on the collectibles, taking advantage of bulk purchasing, and keeping your non-collectible daily drinking wines at a more reasonable cost. There are some great wines out there for cheap. Go find them. If nothing else, you’ll love the search.