For those of us with limitations like budgets, limited available storage space, or both, starting a wine collection isn’t really about finding the perfect resting spot for prized bottles of obscenely costly auction wines. It’s about figuring out what we like enough to want to buy a bottle—even a case or two—to put away for a special day. A wine collection is about “going deep” and buying not just a single vintage, but multiple years of a winemaker’s best wines; and it’s about creating a cellar—or just a nice wine cooler—of wines that you want to enjoy for years.
Budget - Decide on a Budget
Decide how much you are willing spend on this hobby—not always an easy thing. “Telling someone how much to put aside to start their wine collection is not easy as we all are different and our priorities will not be the same. However, aspiring collectors may be surprised to know that as little as $300 or $400 can be enough to buy some excellent bottles that will lay-down easily for the the next 20 years. If you are comfortable an with the idea and desire more flexibility, a great starting place is about $1,000. Don’t worry—you can spread out the spending over months or even years. Explore and learn what you like
Buy What You Like
Having a wine collection is about enjoying your wine. Think about which wines you like to drink. Are they Old World wines, like those from traditional regions in Bordeaux, Burgundy or Italy, or do you enjoy bright, fruity New World wines from California or Australia? Ideally your collection should be varied, but to start, keep on hand what you most enjoy. Keep in mind that Old World wines often are made to be aged. New World wines—while sometimes made for aging—I love those—are often best drunk within three to seven years.
Also think about whether you’re a white or red person. A few white wines—some sauternes and gewürztraminers— will age for a decade or more, but whites don’t typically age as long as reds, which can take decades to reach full potential. In your collection, generally think reds for long-term storage and whites for short-term drinking.
Professional Refrigeration Isn’t for Everyone
Do you want to collect for fun or investment? If it’s just about having some nice wine to pair with dinners or share with friends, without longterm cellaring, you probably won’t need to invest in heavy-duty refrigeration or a storage locker. If you plan to cellar for years, or possibly sell your bottles down the line, you’ll need to make sure you’re storing the wine at its optimum temperature: a constant 55 degrees. “Too cool slows down the aging process; too warm makes for a short life span. But the most critical factor is that a wine is kept at a constant temperature; spikes and fluctuations are what kill wines prematurely.”
If you’re serious about long-term storage for a large quantity of wine, consider a wine storage locker. Small units start at about $40 a month, and your wine will be professionally maintained. You can often share a locker with a friend that enjoys wines to reduce the monthly cost and help you to have a little more cash to make your wine purchases. The only drawbacks is you do not have the wines at home and need to make last-minute trips to the cellar; you’ll have to plan ahead (business hours).
Before you buy that first bottle, you need to figure out where you’re going to store your stash. A good rule of thumb is to estimate the number of bottles you plan to collect, then multiply that by three. Often a basement will maintain the steady temperature your wines will need, though you should take some temperature readings at different times of the day to be safe. In the short term, temperature fluctuation has little noticeable effect on a wine, but in the long term it can be the kiss of death. Whatever you do, never put your wine on top of the refrigerator or above the stove or laundry area, where heat and vibration will wreak havoc on your wines. Many of us have done it. Did you ever wonder why that wine just didn’t taste anything like your remembered? Humidity’s also a factor; if a space is too dry, the cork will dry out and ruin the wine.
You may also want to buy a small refrigeration unit for your kitchen to store bottles you want to serve. Costco and even HomeDepot have reasonably priced units to start with.
Ready, Now Taste
You’re almost ready to start buying. Almost. The next step is to taste to see what you like. Avoid buying wine based merely on scores or tasting notes because they’re based on someone else’s palate—not yours. It’s a starting point, but certainly not an end-all. Visit some wineries near your home, or take a weak end trip or day trip to some wineries near by. If you find a winery you really love, consider joining its wine club or mailing list. But proceed with caution—unless you are totally committed and want multiple vintages, you can sometimes get stuck with clinkers, or over time you may discover your tastes have changed.
Find the Deals
Here’s where winery clubs or mailing lists come in handy. Before wines are bottled, wineries often offer discounted “futures,” selling their upcoming vintages at 10 percent or 20 percent below the final bottle cost. If you’re willing to take a chance on a wine, not knowing its true bottled character, this can be a great deal.
CaCorks will be working with some winemakers on providing some special offerings at some good pricing in the future. Be sure to visitor our website from time to time. We are planning to put on some events and produce a newsletter that you will be able to subscribe to.
Continue To Learn
Remember that the fun in collecting isn’t just the purchase, but everything leading up to it. Do the research, read reviews and books, taste, talk and ask questions. When you do end up pouring that magical first glass from your newly created collection, you’ll enjoy it all the more—because you put the time and effort into finding it.
Have fun exploring your wines....
John L. Krause, Jr. - CACorks