A Wine Spectator reader named Joe M. wrote in to wine expert Dr. Vinifera with a conundrum: he had a bottle of 1889 Rare Malmsey, but he wasn’t sure whether he should drink it, or keep it as a trophy bottle. Since the reader had no plans on selling the bottle, Dr. Vinny told him, “I’d do both! Drink up, and then keep the bottle or cork–along with the memories–as a conversation piece.”
Sometimes, one of the hardest things for a collector to do is drink the wine they have in their collection. When Screaming Eagle wines sell for $500,000, and bottles of 1940 Cheval Blanc go for more than $300,000, drinking very rare wine is almost a sacrilege, and can feel like setting a pile of money on fire. However, you have to remember that wine was made to be drunk, even if it happens to be worth a great deal of money. Robert Parker adds, “We still have to fight the idea that wine is an elitist beverage.” He wishes more collectors would drink their wines, rather than letting them gather dust on a shelf for eternity. The trick to not feeling hesitant or guilty about drinking your trophy bottle is to find a special way to enjoy that amazing wine.
Your New Mantra: It’s OK to Drink Wine
To know when to drink your wine, you first need to give yourself permission to drink it in the first place. My friend once invited me to his wine bar for a sampling of some of his favorite wines. One of the bottles was a vintage Bordeaux from the 1970s. As delicious as the wine was, I had trouble relaxing while I drank it because I felt guilty for “wasting” the wine. My friend offered me a piece of great advice that’s stuck with me ever since: “Life’s short and wine is delicious. No one should cry when they drink a bottle like this.”
I asked my friend whether he was worried about losing money by drinking an expensive bottle, and he explained that selling the Bordeaux wasn’t worth it. That bottle had traveled with him for years, and it hadn’t always been stored under the perfect conditions. He would have sold it for a couple hundred dollars, at most, and that’s when he realized he’d have more fun drinking it than selling it. You should make a similar decision when you look at your own collection. Has that trophy bottle been stored professionally, and can you prove it? If you can’t, the bottle might be better drunk than sold. What’s the maximum amount of money you’re willing to sacrifice for a taste of legendary wine? Feel comfortable drinking any wine that’s below this number. Finally, ask whether the bottle has special meaning to you. If you never plan on selling the bottle because you have an emotional connection to it, you should drink it and save the bottle as a trophy rather than wasting the wine.
Pick a Special Occasion
You need to pick the right occasion before uncorking that legendary trophy bottle. After all, serving a vintage Lafite with Wednesday night leftovers probably won’t make you feel good about your decision to open that bottle. Here are a few occasions that will make the moment special:
- For Wine That Reminds You of a Close Friend: Serve this kind of bottle at your friend’s birthday party, or give it to them as a gift. Alternatively, you can invite your friend over for a special dinner. The goal is to share the wine with your friend, which will make the experience more meaningful.
- For Wine That Reminds You of Someone Who Has Died: Treat the wine as a tribute to the person who died. You can serve it at a funeral, a memorial service, or, if the person has been dead for many years, at a tribute event on the anniversary of death.
- For Wine That Reminds You of Your Significant Other: Save this wine for special anniversary milestones, like your 10th or 20th anniversary. Drink the wine just between the two of you to make the moment special.
Make Your Own Occasion
Events like anniversaries are inherently special, and it’s easy to pop the cork on trophy bottles for those moments. But what should you do with bottles that don’t remind you of anyone in particular? You’ll need to create your own special occasion for these bottles instead. The best way to do this is to host your own trophy wine tasting party, focusing all of the attention on the wine itself. Ask your wine collector friends to bring over at least one bottle from their cellars to sample. You should specify a minimum value for the wine, or stick to some sort of theme. For instance, have everyone bring a bottle that’s worth at least $300 on the current market, or ask everyone to bring a vintage from the 1970s. When everyone brings along a trophy bottle, it makes it easier to open your own, with the added benefit that you’ll get to sample a variety of rare wines.
Alternatively, you can build an entire party around just one bottle of extremely rare, decades-old wine. I know a wine and spirits collector who once offered tastes of vintage Grand Marnier at an elaborate orange-themed party. He went all-out with a dinner of Duck a l’Orange and orange-infused desserts before opening the bottle. For the best results, you should pick a theme for whatever wine you plan on drinking. The whole point is to celebrate the wine, making it the star of the show.
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 wines.