We can all envisage ourselves with a fine wine cellar, wandering about with a glass in our hand trying to find the next bottle to pop from the rows upon rows of top vintages. But the reality of wine collecting isn't always so simple, in fact, it can be mind boggling.
So drop the wishy-washy guides and vague advice, Paul Fraser Collectibles is talking specifics: the how, what, when, where and why of wine collecting…
How to get your hands on the finest wines will be the first question on your mind, and thankfully, the answer is rather simple.
Merchants and auction houses are your best friend when it comes to buying bottles, but only buy from reputable sources. There has been a lot of talk about counterfeit wines recently, and the best way to protect yourself from this is to buy with strong provenance - discerning collectors are far less likely to own a fake, and therefore, less likely to sell one.
Few buying methods beat the excitement of bidding in the auction room and this can be one of the best options, with some fine wines offered without reserve. Below is a brief list of the most respected names in the business to get you started on a sure footing:
Or build a good rapport with your dealer, and you could be offered some of the finest wines at the best prices. These guys are close to the source and can help you sniff out the rarest bottles, but you'll want to go with a trusted company:
You know your palette best, so you'll probably have a good idea of what tastes good. This is the key to success in wine collecting: buy the wines you love and even if they should lose all value, you'll be happy to drink up what's left in your cellar for years to come.
However, we're talking specifics here, and the world of wine can be so broad it's often hard to know where to start…
- Bordeaux - Bordeaux is the most popular wine, holding a large majority share of the market. Older vintages that are ready for drinking now don't come cheap, so you might want to look at more recent years. Of the past decade, 2005, 2009 and 2010 have been named among the finest wines.
- Burgundy - second only to Bordeaux in terms of collectibility, Burgundy is achieving very strong prices at auction. If the grand crus are out of your reach, look for the lesser vineyards in the region. Non-French wines that use Pinot Noir or Chardonnay grapes may be a good option.
- Super Tuscans - while Bordeaux remains the most popular wine, it is facing a backlash from collectors due to high prices. Those that looked elsewhere have discovered the Super Tuscans, an unclassified category of wines from Italy, which have seen their market share rise from 0.9% in 2010 to 3.3% in 2013.
- Cult wines - these wines have a strong following from dedicated enthusiasts and are usually produced in such small numbers that competition is often fierce to own them. With the term normally applied to wines from the Napa Valley in California, think Screaming Eagle, Harlan Estate and the Bryant Family Vineyard.
The Wine Spectator's Top 10 wines of 2013 list also offers some exciting selections:
1. Cune Rioja Imperial Gran Reserva 2004
2. Chateau Canon-La Gaffeliere St.-Emilion 2010
3. Domain Serene Pinot Noir Willamette Valley
Evenstad Reserve 2010
4. Hewitt Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford 2010
5. Kongsgaard Chardonnay Napa Valley 2010
6. Giuseppe Mascarello & Figlio Barolo Monprivato 2008
7. Domaine du Pégaü Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee
8. Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2010
9. Lewis Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
10. Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia
One of the biggest factors in your buying and selling habits will be deciding when your wine is at its optimum drinking age. This varies from wine to wine, and it can be difficult to remember which is at its best, and at what point.
Believe it or not, it's perfectly possible to have a cellar full of the finest, but not a bottle worth drinking.
The best way to hedge against this is to buy in cases. You can get a case of wine featuring bottles from different vintages (known as a "vertical" assortment) to taste at varying stages in the maturity cycle.
Thankfully, Robert Parker - the world's most respected wine critic - has devised a chart of each vintage, detailing when they are at their best.
So, you've connected with a merchant or auction house, picked a few of your favourites wines, and have a good idea of when to drink them, but where to keep them until that time comes?
If you're lucky enough to have the space, your basement will usually act as a perfect cellar, but there are a few things to consider before you bundle your boxes down the stairs:
- Temperature - this can be the deciding factor in your wine storage options, as excessive heat can result in a "cooked" bottle. It's best to keep bottles below 65 degrees farenheit, any hotter can cause a loss of aroma and flavour. Any cooler than 45 degrees farenheit and your wines won't mature properly. Consider investing in a wine cooler to keep things just right.
- Humidity - damp isn't such a big factor as dry when it comes to wine storage, as any properly sealed bottle shouldn't be affected, aside from a little mould on the label. Dry conditions, however, could cause the cork to shrink and let air into the bottle - the kiss of death for fine wine. Place a bucket of water in your cellar to bring moisture back.
- Position - like many of the options with storing wine, there are varying opinions on which position is best to retain optimum quality. However, the preferred choice has always been sideways and this has certainly worked for generations of collectors before you, especially with corked bottles, as the cork needs to be kept in contact with the wine to avoid drying out.
- Light - many wine coolers come with glass doors, but letting light through can affect the taste of the wine, as well as damage the labels of your most prestigious bottles. There is a reason wine comes in coloured bottles, so consider stopping the sun's rays from hitting your collection.
- Movement - the maturity of wine is dependent on certain chemical reactions, but if they happen too fast, the vintage can be spoiled. Avoid expediting the chemical processes that occur inside the bottle by keeping movement to a minimum.
If you can't meet these conditions, you should look into professional storage. Most of the merchants that offer professional storage options will only store wine that you buy for them, but there are specialists in most major cities: