There is a big difference between buying wine and collecting wine. The vast majority of wine bought will be consumed within a few hours of purchase.
A common myth is that all wine improves with age. In fact, the lion's share of wine is meant deteriorates over time and is meant for immediate consumption. Only a tiny portion of wine sold improves with age, which is in large part what makes it collectible. These age-worthy wines evolve over the years into wines of great balance an complexity.
There are many benefits to collecting wine such as lower costs, drinking wine at its peak, and access to wine that is otherwise hard to find. For example, if you wanted to drink a 20 year old bottle of Bordeaux, this would be next to impossible to find in any retailer. Therefore, your only option would be to buy on the secondary market from other collectors at wine auctions or on consignment in specialty wine shops. These wines often sell for inflated prices. Additionally, provenance and storage conditions are risk factors.
It's not expensive to start collecting wine, as there are collectible wines at all price ranges. However, you do need good storage or your wine will degrade quickly. A common mistake that people make is storing their wine at room temperature, or worse case in their kitchen. Instead, all wine (red or white) should be stored at cellar temperature which is around 55 °F (13 °C) with 75% humidity. There are several options:
- A compressor-based wine fridge - This is a good option for starting out, although few wine fridges control humidty which could be an issue for long term storage. It will also requires some periodic servicing.
- A cellar - This is a great option if you have room for it your home.
- Off-site storage locker - There are many wine storage locker providers that will rent you a locker to store your wine in ideal conditions.
- Professional storage - Similiar to off-site storage, these company will often receive and catalog your wine for you.
What Wines To Collect?
This all comes down to personal preference. You are buying wine for your future self and preferences change. Although, if you have stored your wine in perfect condition then you can always sell off wines that no longer interest you. Some of most common collectible wine regions include Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone, Champagne, Tuscany, Piedmont, Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Madeira, Mosel, Napa Valley, and Barossa Valley.
Researching the wine region and producer are an important part of building a collection. Here are a few things you will want to research:
- Critic scores - Scores are not everything, but they have a strong influence on price.
- Vintage variation - This is more important in regions like Bordeaux than Napa Valley. If the weather is particullarly bad in a region, this can lower supply and quality, which in turn affects price.
- Ideology - Organic or biodynamiclly grown may be important to you. Winemaking practices such as natural yeasts may be something to consider.
- Drinking window - It is important to estimate the prime drinking window so that you can drink or sell your wine before it degrades. For example, it could be 10 years for a bottle of Chablis or over 100 years for Madeira.
Most collectors buy multiple bottles or cases of the wine they collect. This is so that they can sample the wine over the years as it evolves. Critics will usually offer drinking window ranges in their reviews, but they can differ significantly. Also, some consumers prefer to drink earlier or later in a drinking window, and therefore sampling yourself is the best way for you to ensure that you find the peak drinking window.
If you have any intention of selling your wine in the future, it is important that you keep documents that prove where the wine was purchased, how it was shipped, and how it was stored. While not perfect, this helps build credibility for your collection.
There are several ways to sell collectible wines on the secondary market. You could sell to a reseller (K&L Wine Merchants), although some relationship building is often required so that the reseller trusts the condition of your collection. Auction house (like Winebid and Spectrum) are a popular option, but authenticity and condition are harder to ensure. Sometimes you can partner with a restaurant to sell your wines on consignment on their wine list. If your wine remains in bonded storage (like Liv-ex or Winecoin), it can often fetch the highest prices, since authenticity and storage condition are easier to prove.