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How to build a wine collection from the ground up

Posted by Idaho Wine Commission on May 6, 2020

You may have noticed our motto is "come as you are." It means, here in Idaho we take a more relaxed approach toward wine. You can forego the formalities and simply enjoy.

But for some, every glass is an opportunity to plumb the many nuances and complexities of wine: its characteristics, its value, even its flaws. Drinking wine is just one part of the fun. Discovery is the other.

This latter group almost invariably ends up curating collections. Some even evolve into expansive and expensive investments that showcase rare vintages in elaborate wine cellarsprecisely calibrated to preserve the precious content inside.

No matter large or small, every collection starts somewhere. You just have to know where to begin. That's where we come in.

If you've been thinking about starting your own, here are some basic guidelines to consider. 

Step 1: Ask, "Is this really for me?"

There's a big difference between buying and collecting. Buying wine is a somewhat random activity based on your personal taste and preferences of the moment. Collecting wine is a long-term commitment that takes time, vision and money.

You still can buy what you want, it's just now your decisions are based on research and strategically filling in holes in your collection. Great collectors have a talent for creating a collection that's greater than the sum of its parts. But the best collection stays true to your tastes.

Still with us? Good! You're off to a great start.

Step 2: Find space

Now, to the single most important aspect of wine collection: storage. Most wine is meant to be enjoyed within five years of bottling. So, where you store and how you handle your collection is supremely important. If you store wine in poor conditions, it will degrade quickly and not be applicable for resale.

Having a wine fridge is an inexpensive way to keep soon-to-serve wines the right temperature. But they can't simulate the humidity, temperature and lighting needed to allow age-worthy wines to reach their full potential. For that, you need a home cellar (the best ones are detached, well insulated and secure), or invest in a professional full-service storage company. The flexibility and reliability of professional storage is a popular option for collectors who aren’t yet sure how many bottles they want to own.

No matter what option you choose, you should aim for a location that can maintain a consistent cool, damp, environment all year-round (about 52 ℉ and 75% humidity).

Step 3: Start small

Remember, Napa wasn't grown in a day. Set aside some money for an initial investment and resist the urge to splurge on one bottle. Instead, focus on a variety of wines. 

There's no general price range inside of which you should begin. It's really what's best for you and your budget. Just remember, the cost of collecting doesn't stop at the bottle. Additional costs include storage (see above), insurance, documentation, etc. Your collection will always cost whatever you're willing to spend.

Step 4: Track your bottles

Now, that you've got a nice little collection going, you need to keep track of it. This might seem simple at first. But as you invest in more and more wine, the harder it is becomes. One mistake beginners often make in the excitement of new purchases is to forget about older bottles. It's easy to let a wine with great aging potential sit on the shelf well past its peak. 

Lucky for you, there's an app for that. Actually, there's a lot of them. And almost all of them can keep a log of all your bottles and their ideal drinking windows, so you can prioritize opening or selling bottles that will reach peak maturity soon. It also ensures that you don’t buy too many of the same vintage and lets you easily sort your collection by variety, style, producer, and more.

Step 5: Be prepared to grow 

Over time, the volume of your collection will increase. And so will its value. Eventually, you should have it appraised and insured. A single catastrophic event (like an earthquake or flood) could wipe out years of your hard work.

If you intend to collect wine for future resale, keep all your receipts and any other paperwork for every bottle you buy. Likewise, catalogue your stories, history, and memorable moments of each bottle in your collection.

Step 6: Keep it in perspective

You will make mistakes. And that's okay.

Building a wine collection is a process of trial and error. Most collectors at some point will invest in wines that flatline in value, don't live up to expectations or suffer from premature oxidation or heat damage.

Don't sweat it. Building a small wine collection is one of the best ways to learn about wine and observe how it changes as it ages, for better or worse. It can be a ton of fun, as long as you don’t take it, or yourself, too seriously. 

Just come as you are.

Topics: Support Local Wine, Wine Education

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