When wine writer Evan Dawson first started his wine collection, he says he was amazed by how many “bad wines” he owned. He would buy bottles of Carneros Pinot Noir or Amarone, and years later, wonder what he had been thinking. “I would like to travel back in time and ask myself what system I was using to ascribe value to Amarone under any circumstances,” he joked. The wine world is intimidating for beginning wine collectors, and with so many wine producers receiving perfect scores in wine magazines, it’s tough to tell which bottles are worth a place in your cellar. Before you choose the best wine producers that will add value to your cellar, you need to realize that your tastes will probably change years from now. If you decide early-on what kind of cellar you would ideally like to own, you’re less likely to regret your wine choices.
I used to daydream about owning the kind of wine bottles that make other wine collectors swoon when they saw them in my cellar, but if you want to make this a reality, you have to discover the producers that make the rarest wines, and decide what you should you with your bottles after you buy them. I once knew a wine and spirits collector who invested in a 100-year-old bottle of Grand Marnier without realizing that the bottle hadn’t been stored properly for decades. He should have kept the bottle as a trophy, but instead, he decided to drink it at a huge event; the liquor was badly spoiled. Before you invest in rare wines or spirits, ask yourself why you want these bottles. Do you plan on drinking them yourself, or do you simply want to resell them later? If you want to drink these bottles, make sure you taste the wine vintage first. Check that the bottles were stored properly and have been inspected for damage, just as Vinfolio does with all of the bottles sold through its marketplace.
On your hunt for rare wines, first look at the producer’s winemaking techniques. Do they release the same wine every year, or do they completely transform the way they make wine each season? Some California cult wineries are considered rare simply because they change their wines every year, making each wine label utterly unique. These are great types of wine producers to look for, since every wine vintage is a collector’s item that will never be repeated. Next, look at the number of bottles being sold on the producer’s estate. For the rarest wines to add to your collection, seek out producers who make fewer than 1,000 cases of wine every year, on average. One last quality to look for in a rare wine producer is the land on which they grow their grapes; some of the rarest wine producers in the world grow grapes on fewer than 50 acres of vineyard, meaning that they can only produce a limited number of bottles, no matter how fine the weather is. This quality is a boon for collectors, since small vineyards allow farmers to focus more intently on every grape and keeps wine volume low, increasing the wine’s worth.
Seeking Price Appreciation
Over the course of his collecting career, Ken Bleifer says that he managed to buy about 4,000 bottles of wine without thinking of a single bottle as a financial investment. When he sold some of his extra wines at an auction, he was amazed by how much profit he made on his bottles: hundreds of thousands of dollars. He said, “Had I known what I know now, I never would have bought a stock in my life.” The secret is out on wine collecting as an investment; many collectors get into wine to turn the best profit possible, and although they might also enjoy the wine, they always consider investment prices first. If you’re a beginning wine collector, it makes sense to buy wine for investment purposes. Not only can you sell your wines as your tastes change, but you can also use the money you earn to invest in bigger and better bottles down the road.
Research prospective wines on Liv-ex if you want up-to-date data on how a wine is faring on the market. Wine pricing experts at Vinfolio use this data and dozens of other sources to come up with recommended prices on bottles, so it’s important to research data from multiple sources when you choose an investment wine. Don’t be afraid to invest in some of the world’s most expensive wines, even if the price is steep up-front; a wine that you buy for $10,000 today could easily sell for $40,000 a decade from now, depending on its rarity and how well you store it in your cellar. Be prepared to invest time and money in your collection, since it takes as long as 10 or 20 years to gain a profit off of the best wine producers’ vintages.
The key to getting the best price possible on bottles you resell is to stick with legendary, well-known producers, and to ask for authentication documents directly from the estate. These documents will allow you to sell the wine at the highest price possible later. You should also learn to spot pricing bubbles before you invest in producers for profit. For instance, a few years ago, wines from Bordeaux became much more expensive than usual as eager collectors from China drove prices up. Today, prices in this region are dropping back down, so it is safe to invest in Bordeaux once more.
Looking for Drinkability
A few years ago, Robert Parker decided to back out of en-primeur wine sales and tastings, saying that he hated that wines were becoming nothing but investment pieces for wine collectors. Parker suggests that today’s beginning collectors only buy wines that taste wonderful to them, otherwise they risk disappointment. He says, “If you’re buying for speculation but you don’t mind that [the bottles] don’t reward financially, because you can just enjoy drinking them with your friends, then that’s a good position to be in.” Before investing heavily in any bottles of wine, try to taste each vintage first, if at all possible, to make the most out of your wine collection.
Signing up for California wine mailing lists is the perfect option for collectors who want to drink the wines they buy, because they typically get more allocations than they could possibly drink on their own. However, it’s difficult to get on one of these lists, especially since waitlists for the best California producers have thousands of people waiting for a membership spot.
The types of wine producers to look for are those who make wines designed to age well through the decades. Champagne is a good choice for beginning collectors, since this is a varietal that often tastes wonderful whether drunk the moment it’s released, or 10 years from now. Look at the tasting notes for the wines you plan on buying, and see if you can find a note both for a young vintage and an old vintage. How do these wines taste while they’re young, and how do they taste as they age? If you find a wine producer that consistently receives high ratings for young and old wines alike, buy a full case of the wine. As the wines in the case slowly mature in your cellar, you can drink a bottle once every few years, appreciating the subtle changes in flavor as time goes on.
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.