Collecting wine is an unparalleled pleasure for me but if you want to collect wine, you will be most rewarded if you first define why you want to collect wine. Also going in, recognize this ecumenical truth about collecting: nearly everyone runs out of space and collects more than they ever thought possible. Plan accordingly.
Reasons why people collect wine:
1. to have enough quantity and variety available for any occasion that may arise
2. to have bragging rights (buying mostly top-name, collectible wines)
3. for investment purposes
4. any combination of the above
Expanding on these reasons, I offer the following:
Wouldn’t it be great if no matter who showed up at any given time, for any given reason, you could open some bottles that were appropriate for the occasion? You have beer-swilling cousins that have no clue about wine so you’re probably not going to serve that ’59 Lafite-Rothschild you have. Or your boss shows up and you know that she loves red wine so you happen to have a 1989 Chateau Haut-Brion on hand to thrill even the most jaded wine aficionado – or anything in between the extremes, including ‘everyday’ wines for you. This is a cellar that requires a large selection and certainly should have wines from different regions and different vintages or levels of maturity. You might have Classified Bordeaux as your base, but spread out to California Cabernet and Chardonnay, mature Italian Borolo, Rhone blends, great Ribera del Durao Tempranillo, German Riesling and other dessert wines like Sauternes (Bordeaux), Australian treasures, and eventually on to Burgundy. To accommodate a lot of different needs at different levels you need a well-balanced cellar that spans the globe. Talk to me.
Bragging rights essentially means having very high scoring wines from around the world that you will never have to make apologies to anyone about owning. It doesn’t matter if Parker scores the wine at 99 points and Tanzer scores it at 87 – you will always use the highest score. This is to show off your wines and hope that you don’t have to drink them and hope some more that your friends and family that are exposed to these bottles will go home to Google them when they can so they can see what you spent on a bottle of ’82 Petrus. After staggering around the room for a while trying to wrap their minds around the cost of your wines, these friends and family members will then brag to their friends and other family members that they know you. And even perhaps that they have shared a glass of wine with you. This is a relatively simple cellar to put together and is analogous to having a trophy wife. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it but people may still laugh about it when you’re not around and it is possibly the least noble reason to have a collection of fine wine. Talk to me.
This is perhaps the easiest cellar to put together, especially if price is no object. But as in any investment vehicle, there is risk involved. Classified Bordeaux and the so-called ‘super-seconds’ (popular and high scoring 2nd Growths) are certainly a good place to start but vintage is very important and not every vintage is going to be a stellar investment opportunity. There are also a number of Burgundies and handful of Italian and Californian wines that can yield good investment results if properly executed. If you are buying for investment purposes, you must have excellent records of purchase and excellent storage conditions and ultimately be able to verify both; anything less may lower your return. Although there are no guarantees, the sale of fine wines has far surpassed the performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average for many years. This is partially due to the fact that newly rich nations such as Russia, China and India have all driven prices way up in bidding wars for this limited commodity of fine wine. Sadly, the result is that the prices are getting out of reach for many American wine lovers and collectors. Talk to me.
This is probably the most personal and self-satisfying type of cellar for most collectors. Putting a cellar together based on all of the above-mentioned criteria requires patience, money and most of all, wine knowledge. And although I have not hired Gallup Polls to verify this, I believe that this type of cellar is the most rewarding for its owner. It becomes personal, a place where its owner is intimate with every purchase, every bottle. The person behind the ownership knows instinctively what to serve to whom and his/her guests are never disappointed. One of the biggest challenges is learning what you personally love and understanding what others may also enjoy, all of which demands that over time, you will end up with a good depth of wine knowledge. If you need help or ideas about where to start or where to go, talk to me.