Lesson 10 Objectives: Know the key considerations in starting your own wine collection.
Know which wines are not meant for aging.
Starting a Wine Collection
Wine storage can be relatively simple and hassle-free if you plan to drink your wine within 6 months.
If however, you want to invest in a collection of ageable wines and store them for many years, then you have to be aware of three critical factors:
- Not all wines are created to be aged. In fact, most wines are best drunk young.
- Improper storage can easily ruin your wine.
- Wine’s value decrease after its prime time.
(1) Know which wine is ageable:
Wine without much personality and complexity will not age well. If a wine does not have a strong structure and character now, aging it in an enclosed bottle will not add life to it. For example, aging cannot turn a silky bodied Pinot Noir into a full-bodied, intense Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, aging the wrong bottle is like watering down a good bottle of wine with water.
You might ask: what makes wine age well then? Ageable wines are tannic, acidic, well-structured, and complex (see table below). Tannins, the natural preservatives that come from the grape’s skin, will soften as time passes. It will round up the wine, bringing out its best bouquet and balance.
|Wines that age well||Wines not created to be aged|
|France:||Medoc, Graves, St Emilion, Pomerol, Pommard||Beaujolais, Alsace Pinot Noir & young Cotes du Rhone / Loire Valley / Burgundy|
|Italy:||Barolo, Barbaresco, Super Tuscans, Brunello di Montalcino||Bardolino, Chianti, Valpolicella|
|Spain:||Ribera del Duero, Priorato, Rioja Gran Reserva||Young Rioja, La Mancha|
|Australia:||(Premium) Shiraz, Penfolds Grange||(Basic) Shiraz|
|USA:||(Premium) California Cabernet Sauvignon||Zinfandel|
In the world of wine, price is a good indication of the wine’s structure and complexity. A general rule of thumb –
Wines under $25 are best drunk in 3-5 years. If you want to keep a collection for 3-5 years, invest in wines in the US$25-35 category. If you want to keep a collection for 5+ years, invest in wines over US$40+.
(2) Proper wine storage:
Temperature, light, and humidity are the three crucial factors to monitor. To learn why temperature, light and humidity can damage wine, go to lesson 4.
Ideal range of temperature for storing red wine is 50-55ºF or 10-16ºC. Ideal humidity for wine storage ranges from 60-75% RH.
Depending on the size of your collection, you can buy a wine fridge, turn your basement / spare room into a wine cellar, or rent a wine storage facility (e.g. a temperature controlled wine warehouse). Regardless of your choice, be sure to set and monitor the temperature, humidity, and aging period. Some collectors invest in wine storage software to manage their collection.
Just like all goods, the condition of the wine bottle and wine label will have an effect on its value. If you plan to resell your collection, take extra precaution to monitor the humidity level and use label protectors to avoid potential label damages.
(3) Best time to drink / sell your collection:
Wine’s value drops after its ideal maturity. The ideal maturity differs for each grape, and is affected by its region and vintage. For example, a premium Bordeaux (based on the thick-skinned Cabernet Sauvignon grapes) might take 15 years to open up; whereas a premium Burgundy (based on the thin-skinned Pinot Noir grapes) would reach its peak in 8 years.
You can find out the recommended aging period from various online resources such as Wine Spectators and Robert Parker. If you plan to sell your wine, you will get the best price 1-3 years before the recommended serving time.
Our tips on starting your own collection:
- Look for discounts. Visit various wine stores to check their price (and storage condition). Usually, you can get 10-20% discount when you buy 12 bottles of wines. Alternatively, buy from wholesalers or place an order through friends who work in restaurants. Or visit the vineyards and join their wine clubs to get the best deal!
- Try one before you buy a dozen… or at least, review online tasting notes before your investment.
- If you are buying premium, ageable wines, only buy from stores that take special precaution to store the wines.
- If you buy wine future (en primeur), choose a merchant with sound financial and social standing and opt for the pay-on-delivery payment method.