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You can learn how to build your own Sine Qua Non collection from scratch by understanding which labels show the most promise, and knowing where to buy these utterly unique wines.
Why Collect Sine Qua Non?
One of my acquaintances recently bragged about finally getting on the Sine Qua Non mailing list. Although he had been on the waitlist for five years, he was still relatively lucky. Most collectors don’t clear the waitlist until seven or even eight years after they first apply, and the estate estimates that they have more than 4,000 people currently waiting for their turn in line. Why is having a Sine Qua Non collection so important to thousands of collectors? The answer lies in the estate’s unique blends, labels, rarity, and investment returns.
When Sine Qua Non winemaker Manfred Krankl decided to make his own wines in the mid-1990s, he immediately started experimenting with different blends. He hasn’t stopped since. Every single Sine Qua Non vintage from 1994’s Queen of Spades through today’s releases is 100 percent unique. The wine itself is usually a variation on a Rhône blend, although the estate rarely, if ever, mixes the same percentage of grapes twice. This means that every vintage tastes unique to that year, more so than wine from other estates where the blends don’t change. As a result, these wines can taste slightly bolder than their peers, since the winemakers aren’t afraid to try exciting or unusual blends.
A Sine Qua Non collection also looks different from any other collection in a cellar. When you buy Harlan or DRC, the bottles look like uniformed soldiers, each carrying the estate’s signature label. At Sine Qua Non, every vintage and blend has its own hand-designed artwork that matches Krankl’s chosen name for the vintage. For instance, 1995’s The Bride has a hand-drawn image of a bride and groom on the bottle. Unless you buy two of the exact same vintage and blend, all of your Sine Qua Non wine will have a different label. This makes these wines especially collectible, since both the bottle and the wine are visually unique and engaging–like drinkable artwork.
Extremely low yields drive up interest in wines among collectors, and the Sine Qua Non estate only produces about 3,500 cases each year because the harvesting process is labor-intensive. Every single grape is picked by hand from every vine on the estate’s own vineyards–none of the wine is mass-produced. Even the grapes that SQN buys from other vineyards go through this focused harvesting process.
The way that Sine Qua Non sells these limited bottles also adds to their rarity. The only way that you can buy these wines is if you are on the coveted mailing list. The estate doesn’t sell its wine to any wine shops or distribution companies, preferring to deal with their customers directly. If you want to start your own Sine Qua Non collection, you’ll either have to wait several years to clear the waitlist, or wait for other collectors to sell the wine secondhand at auction.
Unusual blends, artistic labels, and rarity make Sine Qua Non highly desirable among collectors, which in turn drives up the market value. Most bottles sell anywhere from $200 to $500 each on the mailing list, depending on the quality of the specific blend, but many collectors immediately flip those bottles on the secondary market for a much greater profit. Most wines sell for at least twice as much on the secondary market immediately upon release, and high-quality vintages will easily sell for as much as four times the original price. And as with most high-quality wines, the longer you hold onto these wines, the greater the value will be. One rare bottle of 1995 Queen of Hearts recently sold for more than $40,000 at auction. It’s impossible to say whether the market will continue to favor Sine Qua Non 20 or 30 years from now. But currently, having a Sine Qua Non collection means an almost guaranteed return on your investment.
Your Guide to Sine Qua Non’s Winemaking Style
Before you start your Sine Qua Non collection, you should familiarize yourself with the estate’s Rhône-inspired blends, and also consider their lesser-known white wines and rosé. While the estate never makes the same wine twice, they still follow a loose pattern with their blends every year. Here are the most popular blends that Sine Qua Non makes:
Some of the blends above are more popular than others. Any of the estate’s Syrah-heavy blends usually sell best on the secondary market. Sine Qua Non makes less of the Grenache-heavy blends, but these are still great to have as a contrast to the Syrah blends. Many collectors choose to invest in one Syrah blend and one Grenache blend every year. For instance, you can buy 2013’s Male (made mostly from Syrah) and 2013’s Female (made mostly from Grenache) as a “set.” In this sense, you can have a series of mini Sine Qua Non collections within your larger collection.
The white blends and rosé aren’t as well-known among collectors, and the estate makes far less of these wines every year than the reds. However, in vintages when quality was high, you can often sell these wines for a greater profit than the more popular Syrah because they are more difficult to find on the secondary market. If you find whites or rosé (like 2001 Pagan Poetry) from Sine Qua Non, hold onto them for at least a decade before you decide to resell them. If you plan on drinking, rather than selling, these wines, the sublabel Mr. K Chardonnay is a better choice. These wines aren’t always as valuable, but they receive high ratings from critics.
In addition to these classic Sine Qua Non blends, the estate also occasionally dabbles in Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and unusual Spanish grapes. Although the winemakers most often make Rhône-style blends, they’re not beholden to any particular regional style or grape varietal. If you want a truly unique tasting experience, try one of the estate’s more unusual blends, usually made with either Pinot Noir or Cabernet.
The Most Collectible Sine Qua Non Bottles of All Time
Starting a Sine Qua Non collection is surprisingly easy once you know which past labels received the most attention from critics and collectors. Most Sine Qua Non wine is worth buying, and the vast majority of these bottles have some value on the secondary market, but if you only want to buy the estate’s best tasting and most valuable wines, consider the following vintages:
Stockholm Syndrome (2010) – Long aging power and a deep, dark fruit taste.
A Shot in the Dark (2006) – A 100-point wine with complex flavors.
Poker Face (2004) – A near-perfect wine, with much more aging potential than most SQN wines.
Queen of Hearts (1995) – An extremely rare rosé that’s almost impossible to find on the market.
Queen of Spades (1994) – The first official SQN vintage ever produced.
Papa (2003) – An especially rare Syrah that received near-perfect scores from critics.
Just for the Love of It (2002) – A 100-point Syrah that often gets compared to Guigal.
The Bride (1995) – The first white vintage that the estate ever made.
The Other Hand (1995) – A 100 percent Syrah that has become even rarer over the years.
Left Field (1996) – The very first Pinot Noir vintage SQN ever produced.
Hospice du Rhône (1998) – Only 60 bottles were made, making one of the rarest vintages ever.
E-Raised (1998) – A near-perfect Syrah with especially concentrated fruit.
The Antagonist (1998) – SQN only made 90 cases of this highly-rated Grenache.
Incognito (2000) – A 100-point Grenache, considered the best example of the varietal in SQN history.
Heart Chorea (2002) – Near-perfect scores, and fewer than 100 cases were ever produced.
Any excellent Sine Qua Non collection will have at least one of the wines above, but you’ll need to consider your own tastes in order to build a collection that works well for you.
How Long Should You Keep Sine Qua Non Wine?
Although a Sine Qua Non collection is valuable, these wines don’t always have the lasting power of other collectible red wines. The best vintages can last for 20 or 30 years in a cellar, however, many collectors say that these wines are best enjoyed in their youth, or held onto for the sheer novelty of it. That’s not to say that these wines aren’t also delicious–they’re among the most hedonistic, concentrated wines in California history. This just means that you’ll have to decide early on whether these are wines that you want to drink, or ones you’d rather keep as precious works of art. The drinking window for many of the Syrah blends expires within the first 15 to 20 years or so, on average, and in even less time for the white blends.
Here’s how long you can expect some of the most recent vintages to last in your cellar before reaching their peak:
As you can see, the white blends are often perfectly drinkable almost immediately upon release. The red blends take a bit longer to mature, yet many become enjoyable within the first five years. If you have any 1990s Sine Qua Non wines that you plan on drinking, you’ll want to consider opening those within the next five years or so to make the most out of them. If you’re simply collecting the bottles to resell later, then you don’t have to worry as much about the drinking windows. These bottles remain collectible works of art in themselves, even as the liquid inside begins to pass its peak drinking window.
How to Build a Sine Qua Non Collection
There’s only one problem with starting a Sine Qua Non collection: This is perhaps the most difficult producer to find. The only way that you’ll have success is if you follow one of the two methods below.
Get on the Mailing List
Signing up for the winery’s mailing list is the easy part; you simply fill out your information on the form here to get started. However, you can’t expect to clear the waitlist for at least another five years, at minimum, and 10 years, at maximum. If you’re willing to be patient, you can follow our guideline to getting on, and staying on, the Sine Qua Non mailing list here.
As a word of caution, if you get on the mailing list, be careful if you choose to flip your bottles on the secondary market. You can get into trouble with the estate if they discover that you’re immediately selling your allocation for a profit. Either drink the bottles yourself, or wait at least a decade to sell.
Buy at Auction
The best option for most collectors is to look for these bottles on the secondary market while waiting to make it onto the mailing list. Only shop with auction houses or online stores that inspect their wines for authenticity first, as SQN wines are prime targets for fraud. You should also look into the average market prices for bottles that are already on the market. Any wine selling for more than $200 less than competitors is potentially suspicious. Generally, it’s better to pay more for a wine that you know is authentic than to go for the lowest-priced bottle on the market.
Additionally, you should know which bottles are true once-in-a-lifetime unicorns, and which you can wait on until you find one with the perfect price tag (and provenance). For a Sine Qua Non collection, the only real unicorn wines are those from the first two years of operation (1994 and 1995), or any vintages that were a first for the varietal (like the estate’s first Pinot Noir vintage). And if you’re looking for unicorns, you should strongly consider investing in the estate’s rarest wines. For Sine Qua Non, a wine isn’t truly rare unless less than 80 cases were made. Any wines that don’t meet this criterion are still worth collecting, but you can wait until you see a fair price. For instance, Stockholm Syndrome is a great vintage, but you can find bottles for sale fairly frequently. It’s best to hold out for a bottle you know is authentic and has a great storage history.
A Sine Qua Non Collection Never Ends
The great thing about collecting Sine Qua Non is that it’s nearly impossible to find every single bottle ever made. For completionists, this is a nightmare, but many collectors love the challenge that comes with having their own Sine Qua Non collection. There’s a sense of accomplishment when you finally find the perfect bottle of these ultra rare wines, and that thrill is part of what keeps collectors coming back to this producer every year.
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.
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