There has never been a better time to be a wine collector. Quality today, is at an all-time high, and with significant technological progress, which allows for rectification at every stage of wine-making, most producers joyfully claim that nowadays it is virtually impossible to make bad quality wine.
Starting a wine collection isn’t about stacking up on all the possible trophy wines of the world at obscenely high auction bid prices, and then trying to find the perfect resting spot for them. Building an ultimate wine collection is about discovering wines and styles that you prefer; it is about creating a cellar of wines that you want to share and enjoy today and in years to come. Then of course, adding a few luxury wine bottles in this collection acts as the icing on the cake.
It may be worthwhile to get some basic education about the different wines of the world; difference in styles between old world classics from Bordeaux, Spain and Italy, versus the premium new world styles from California, Australia and New Zealand. The former classic styles lean more towards savoury fruit profiles with more emphasis on structure (tannins and acidity), whereas the new world styles generally showcase sweeter fruit, in a richer opulent style. Discover your own wine preferences. There is a plethora of information on wines available on the Internet. Wine dinners are regularly organized by 5-star luxury hotels like the ITC Hotels across cities; signing up for these wine evenings is a good way to induct oneself into the wonderful world of wines.
Decide on a budget. 40% of this budget should be spent on precious wine collectibles with a long ageing potential, thus providing for your drinking in later years. Typically, these wines will be from the classic regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone and perhaps premium California. The other 60% of your budget could be used to buy early-to-medium-term drinking wines. In this category, the intent is to collect artisanal wine producers who engage in small to medium scale quality production rather than mass produced branded wine. Good Californian Cabernets, Argentinean Malbecs, Pinot Noirs from Oregon and New Zealand and Washington State Merlots are exciting finds in the value range. ‘Cru Bourgeois’ quality wines from the Bordeaux wines are also exceptional value in comparison to the Classed Growths.
True collectors want to build depth, breadth and diversity to their wine assemblage. Try to include some vintage Champagnes and prized sweet wines from Tokaji or Sauternes to demonstrate breadth. Six successive vintages of the same wine from the same producer allow you to compare vintage variation and its impact on quality in different years. I know it sounds a little geeky, but if your friends know about your passion for wines, they will understand; maybe even join in the fun.
The price of a case of wine can sometimes be prohibitive for a new wine collector, ranging from a few thousands to lakhs of rupees in case of an investment-grade wine from Bordeaux or Burgundy. But such wines can be tried over the entire span of their lifetime by opening one bottle at a time in different years. For wines that you like to drink every day, try to buy at least 3 bottles of each, to allow for sharing and drinking at different occasions within 1-2 years.
Wines need to be stored at a cool and constant temperature; spikes and fluctuations will make them age prematurely. Storing the wine at 12-14oC will allow it to age and mature gracefully. Value-based everyday drinking wines can be effectively stored in a wine cooler set at the right temperature. Kitchen refrigerators which operate at 3-5oC are too cold and will dry the cork, making it crumble while uncorking the bottle. The more expensive wines which are intended for long term ageing require more professional storage conditions with the right temperature and humidity control. Five star luxury hotels invest in professional storage systems from Eurocave and Transtherm companies to ensure that their precious wine collections are in prime health when served to guests. Investment grade wines which are intended for trading and making profits are best stored either in London or Hong Kong, where companies such as London City Bond and Octavian specialize in professional wine storage.
Trophy wines are the crowning jewels of a wine collection. For some, having a couple of bottles of Chateau Cos d’Estournel, Sassicaia, Screaming Eagle also represents snob value. But beware, they will gulp down a big portion of your budget; also they are hard to access. It may be best to buy these bottles during your winery visits to Bordeaux, Tuscany or Napa Valley. You may need to hire a local wine tour expert to help you arrange a wine tasting tour of these wineries, as they are generally not open to public. If you are keen to build an investment portfolio of wines, it is best to work with a professional wine merchant who will advise you on the right wine brands, best vintages, storage and provenance related issues to protect their future trading value.
Finally, it is important to remember that the true pleasure of wine isn’t in the collecting or investment, but in the joy of experiencing it. When you pour the first glass from your newly created collection, you will enjoy it with pride, whether it is a Rs 1800 Chardonnay or a rare German Riesling worth Rs 18,000 a bottle. It is because you have put the time and effort to find it and care for it.
12 Wines That Make an Ultimate Wine Collection