An acquaintance of mine adored wine, but for some reason, he hated calling himself a “serious” wine collector. When he imagined a serious wine collector, he envisioned stuffy, wealthy elitists who own thousands of bottles in their enormous home cellars and read nothing but Liv-ex reports and Wine Spectator reviews in their down time. Even as he made fun of these imaginary collectors, I watched as his collection grew from a handful of fine wine bottles to his very first wine case, and from that first case to hundreds more bottles; the same man who once owned only Oregon Pinot Noir now treasured his Abreu, Hundred Acre, and Margaux vintages. When he could no longer keep all of his bottles in one place, he was forced to admit that he had become a serious collector. This often happens with wine collectors: they buy bottles so slowly that they rarely ever experience a single moment when they realize they’ve become serious collectors. Yet it’s essential for wine lovers to recognize when they’ve made this transition. As one wine writer points out, if you go into serious collecting without a solid plan, you’ll quickly get overwhelmed.
Why You Should Become a Serious Wine Collector
The first reason you should start considering yourself a serious wine collector is because your budding collection desperately needs guidance. Wine expert Matt Kramer says that one of the biggest mistakes wine collectors make is expecting fine wines to come to them, without putting any work into finding the bottles that would improve their cellars. Kramer explains, “We’ve gotten lazy. In what might be called the ‘Amazon era,’ we now expect, with cause, that whatever we want should be available to us with as little fuss as possible. And certainly with no effort on our part.” When you think of yourself as an amateur wine collector, you might not put in the work necessary to improve your collection, and you could easily end up with a wine cellar without a single focus. One way to get into serious collecting is to sign up for a detailed wine app like VinCellar, and start tracking all of your bottles in one place. The app also allows you to see which wines you have plenty of stock in, and which wines account for only a small percentage of your cellar. From here, you should analyze your cellar from a bird’s eye view to determine which bottles are worthwhile investments for the future.
The second reason why you should consider yourself a serious collector is the promise of investment. According to Reuters, only 1 percent of all wines sold internationally are collectible wines that would make solid investments for collectors. This means that if you’re a casual collector, chances are good that you have at least some bottles in your cellar that are better to drink now than store for the future. Collectors who get serious about their collections can then eliminate or drink the bottles that take up space in their cellars, leaving only room for those bottles that are worth storing for the long haul. When you think of your cellar as an investment, you can buy more wines using the money you make on your old bottles. Venture capitalist Charles Banks says that he was never interested in wine until he heard about the booming economic climate. He decided to invest in Screaming Eagle, and as a result, he was able to make a full-time career out of wine investments, all because he decided to get serious about wine.
The third reason why you should consider yourself a serious collector is to get yourself into the wine enthusiast networks and find the bottles that you need. If you only know people who buy wine at grocery stores, it’s difficult to learn about the fine wines that you want to add to your cellar. Getting involved with other serious wine collectors gives you valuable information about the best wines on the market today. Either take a few classes through WSET to familiarize yourself with the wine world and make new wine-loving friends, or join an online community of wine drinkers like the one offered through Vinfolio. You can discuss all of the wines that you own, and see which wines your peers are most excited about and would most recommend for your collection.
The Signs: Your Buying Habits
So, how do you tell whether you’re ready to make the leap into serious wine collecting? To start, look at your current wine buying habits. How much have you spent on wine over the past year? Would you like to own more bottles than you currently own? If you spend more than $1,000 a year on wine, and you want to save a few bottles over the years, you should consider becoming a more serious collector in order to get the most out of that investment. Start by giving yourself a reasonable wine budget for the year. The amount entirely depends on your income and interest in wine; for some collectors, a healthy budget might be $1,500 per year, and for others, it might be $10,000 per year. Once you have a solid spending plan, use this overall budget to calculate how much you can spend on wine cases.
Too many collectors make the mistake of giving themselves a budget, then blowing almost the entire amount on a single bottle of wine. This is dangerous, because if that bottle spoils or it’s not worth as much as you paid for it, then you won’t have any wiggle room. Wine investing is just like investing in stock: you have to diversify what you own. This is why wine cases are great choices for collectors. You have more bottles to rely on, and you actually get to drink some of them yourself. Any excess bottles that you don’t drink can be sold on the secondary market, and those funds can be used toward your next case of wine. Give yourself a budget of 12 cases per year to start. If you have a $1,500 budget, this means that you can spend about $120 on a case, or about $10 per bottle; if you have a $10,000 budget, you can spend about $830 per case, or nearly $70 per bottle.
Have you ever thought of joining a wine mailing list? If so, you might be ready to call yourself a serious wine collector. These lists are perfect for serious collectors because they offer wines for the lowest prices on the market, and give collectors the opportunity to resell those bottles for a profit later. The moment you join your first allocations list, or the moment you buy your first full wine case, you can safely call yourself a serious wine collector and take the steps needed to make smart buying choices. The longer you stay in denial about your buying habits, the more time and money you may end up wasting on wines that aren’t worth cellaring.
The Signs: Your Cellar
Another sign that you’re becoming a serious wine collector is the physical state of your home cellar. Do you have plenty of space for more bottles in your current wine room, or do you have cases of wine stacked on the floor? To determine how serious you are about wine based on your cellar alone, you need to get organized. First, take a comprehensive inventory of every bottle you own, and upload each vintage into the VinCellar app. Sometimes, simply seeing all of your bottles in one place, neatly stacked together, is enough for you to realize that you’re more serious about wine than you thought. When all of your bottles are stowed away in your kitchen cabinets or on the floor of your closet, it’s easy to forget how many bottles you actually own.
Once you’ve taken inventory, you need to give your bottles the space that they need, and ensure that they’re being stored under the right conditions. If you don’t already have a home wine cellar with temperature controls, or your wines don’t all fit in a single wine fridge, you should store your wines with a third party warehouse like Vinfolio’s storage facility. This option isn’t only for collectors who own thousands of bottles — plenty of casual collectors use this service for a handful of bottles that they don’t want to feel responsible for storing themselves. This is the best option for those who are thinking about making the transition from beginning wine collecting into more serious wine collecting, because Vinfolio takes care of all of the storage details without any additional work or research for the collector. When you’re just getting started on your wine collecting journey, you don’t want to spoil your collection simply because you weren’t sure how to store the bottles properly yourself. When you store your bottles using a third party service, all you have to do is request your bottles whenever you’re ready to drink them, and they’ll be shipped to your doorstep.
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s best wine.
With over a decade of experience in the wine industry, Derek Cienfuegos serves as Director of Collector Services at Vinfolio. During his tenure at Vinfolio, he has had the good fortune to work with some of the most distinguished wine collections in the country. Trained in wine production, Derek spent many years making wines commercially for some of Sonoma’s top producers. In addition, he has designed, opened, and managed two wine bars in San Francisco.