Wine Collecting 101

Have you been thinking about starting a wine collection? Here is everything you need to know to get started.

WHY collect wine?

Wine is full of magic. It is alive. And like anything with a soul, it changes over time. One of the most interesting and informative aspects of wine drinking is tasting the same bottle at different points in time (No, not 5, 7 and 10 p.m.!). More like when the wine is five, 10 and 15 years old. Studying the evolution of a bottle is rewarding and delicious.

WHO should collect?

When you think of collecting wine, you may picture old men shuffling around mansions in housecoats, mumbling about the virtues of 1982 Bordeaux. While it’s true that plenty of mansions boast wine cellars, many collectors are trophy-toting old men, and that ’82 vintage of Bordeaux is still going strong, wine needn’t be stuffy. Any wine lover who is both curious and patient should consider collecting.

WHAT should you collect?

Collect what you enjoy, but don’t buy too heavily in any one wine or region. Your taste will inevitably evolve. Also note that not all wines are capable of improving over time. Best bets:

  • Start with quality. Price doesn’t guarantee quality, but it’s a good rough indicator. Typically, wines that cost less than $50 are not built to last.
  • Stick with classic regions and producers: They’ve proven their longevity. The most collectable wines include Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Rhone, Port, Rioja, Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo, Chianti and Napa cabernet.

WHEN do you drink them?

If wine had an expiration date, or better yet, a peak date, things would be a lot easier. The truth is, no one really knows when a bottle will be at its exact best. That is part of wine’s elusive charm.

If you like your wines extroverted, with fruit and power, drink them young. If you prefer earthy, subtle flavors, wait a little longer. Just don’t wait too long. Only a handful of legendary wines can last over 20 years.

WHERE should you keep your collection?

Wine’s requirements for aging gracefully are simple: a dark, still place with consistently cool temperature (55 degrees is perfect) and 50 to 70 percent humidity, to keep corks moist. If you don’t have a wine cellar or dedicated wine fridge, your basement will do. If you don’t have a basement, try an interior closet. It’s not pretty, but it meets most of the requirements.

HOW do you start?

Develop a trusting relationship with your supplier. That is, look for a passionate shop owner with a stellar reputation in collectable wines. Before you buy from them, make sure they understand your taste, objectives and budget. From there, they can help you build a small collection of favorites, or a massive cellar with special wines from around the world. Two terrific local retailers are Flickinger Wines and Schaefer’s.

Whatever the size or shape, a collection of wine is an opportunity to learn and to reap the rewards of waiting patiently for a glimpse into the mystic.

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