Many aspiring collectors aren’t sure how to build a wine collection. They see experienced collectors with lots of great wines in their cellars, and wonder how they know which wines are worth aging and drinking. What will these wines taste like when they’re aged? What if their tastes change in the ten or 20 years it takes to age a great wine?
Unfortunately, collecting wine is a leap of faith most of the time. There’s no way to know for sure which wines will gain in value or appeal to your tastes in the future. However, there are a few basic guidelines to help budding collectors get their start building impressive, timeless, and enjoyable wine collections. We’ve outlined them for you below.
Why You Should Build a Wine Collection
Starting a wine collection can be immensely rewarding. Some of the main reasons to collect wine are:
- You’ll have the perfect bottle for every occasion. Collectors are able to pull a selection of bottles from their collection whenever necessary for dinner parties or to share with friends. When you have many bottles to choose from, you can pick the one that best matches the food being served, your company, or your mood that day.
- You can make a profit from your collection. If you learn how to build a wine collection that gains value over time, then you can potentially make a profit when you resell your wine later. The fine wine market is one of the most reliable for investors. Wines in the Liv-ex 1,000 index delivered a 46.15 percent return on investment over the last five years; this is higher than the average five-year return for the S&P 500, which is currently around 43 percent. Some cellar management systems make it easy for wine investors to check in on their bottles to find out which ones should be put on the market now in order to make the highest possible return on investment.
- A collection expands your network and your wine knowledge. When you seek out rare wines, attend tasting events, or visit auctions, you’ll come across other collectors who have similar tastes and interests. The more connections you have, the better your collection and the deeper your knowledge of wine will be. Wine enthusiasts love to suggest new wines to try and may even share a bottle of wine with you from their own collections.
Most people have more than one reason to start a wine collection. While there’s nothing wrong with viewing wine purely as an asset class or drinking all of your bottles yourself, the most successful collectors keep their options open. If you’re ready to start a diverse collection of your own, the steps below can help.
How to Build a Wine Collection: A Step-by-Step Guide
Collecting wine is different from casual buying. Casual drinkers usually purchase wines based on their current moods or for events that are coming up soon. By comparison, a serious wine collector takes into consideration not just their current tastes and mood, but also what they want to gain from their collection long-term.
For this reason, many beginner collectors feel overwhelmed with the process. They either buy too many bottles too quickly without considering how the wines fit into their vision for their collection or they’re afraid to buy any bottles because they don’t know which wines are collectible.
Here’s our guide to make the best wine investment choices. To start:
- Set a budget.
- Find a space to store your bottles.
- Buy delicious, collectible wines.
- Appraise and insure your collection.
- Track your bottles.
You may already have completed one or more of the steps above. If so, skip to the sections that you still need guidance on.
Step 1: Set a Budget
The first step is to set aside money for an initial investment. However, don’t splurge too much on each bottle. You could easily spend an entire $10,000 budget on just one fine bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti or two of the best vintages from Château Pétrus. This won’t get you very far and will leave you with a collection that is not particularly diverse.
Focus instead on a variety of wines that cost between $200 and $2,000. If your budget is $10,000, this gives you anywhere from five to 50 bottles to start with, which is a good foundation for a beginning collection. Choose some age-worthy wines like 2010 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande or 2013 Gaja Barbaresco Costa Russi that you can lay down for several years and fill out your collection with bottles like 2015 Animo Sauvignon Blanc Heritage that are already drinking well; this ensures that you can start enjoying your collection right away.
Step 2: Decide Where to Store Your Bottles
Before you make your first purchase, you should know exactly where you plan on storing all of your wines. If you currently only have a wine fridge, then consider investing in a home cellar or professional full-service storage. Wine fridges aren’t appropriate places to store wine long-term. They’re great options for keeping approachable young wines or mature older wines at the perfect temperature if you plan on serving them soon (within a few weeks). However, the humidity, temperature, and lighting conditions inside of the fridge don’t allow age-worthy wines to reach their full potential when used as long-term storage.
A well-managed home cellar is a good option for collectors who have space available in their homes and can afford the time and money required to build and properly maintain a cellar. However, most collectors, including beginners, benefit from professional storage services. A full-service storage warehouse manages the storage environment for you and lets you invest in as many wines as you’d like without running out of space. The flexibility and reliability of professional storage make this a popular option for collectors who aren’t yet sure how many bottles they want to own.
Step 3: Buy the Most Collectible Wines
If you want to learn how to build a wine collection of age-worthy or profitable bottles, you’ll need to know which wines will actually help you achieve these goals. This is the most difficult step in the process because it’s somewhat subjective. Whether a wine is collectible is to some degree a matter of personal opinion. For example, a rare cult wine like 2013 Sine Qua Non Grenache Jusqu’à l’os Estate (Eleven Confessions) will appeal to some collectors, but not everyone.
To find collectible wines that you’ll enjoy, look for bottles that have the following qualities:
Not every collectible wine has all of the qualities above. Some wines receive high scores from critics and may appeal to your palate, but won’t gain much in secondary market value. Unusual or rare wine styles often fit into this category. For example, Commandaria from Cyprus is an ageable sweet red wine that many wine enthusiasts enjoy, but it’s difficult to flip these bottles on the secondary market for a profit. That doesn’t mean these wines aren’t worth investing in. If you’re not looking for a return on your investment, then wines like this may be an excellent choice for your collection.
Building a wine collection is a process of trial and error. Most collectors will at some point accidentally invest in wines that plateau or decrease in value, don’t taste as delicious as expected, or suffer from flaws like premature oxidation or heat damage. This is part of why it’s important to diversify your collection. Even if a handful of bottles don’t give you the results you wanted, you’ll likely have others in storage that will.
Step 4: Appraise and Insure Your Wine
After you buy your first shipment of wine, get your bottles appraised and insured. Not only should you have shipping insurance for the bottles while they are in transit to your home or storage warehouse, but you should also have a policy in place that covers your investment in case of a natural disaster or theft. The more bottles you buy, the more important this step is. Decades of wine history can be destroyed in moments during an earthquake or flood. Insurance won’t bring your bottles back, but it will ensure that your investment didn’t go entirely to waste. Some professional storage warehouses also include inspection and insurance as part of their basic services, which means that you don’t have to find an appraiser or negotiate an insurance contract. Keep in mind that if you get your wine insured yourself, you’ll need to repeat this process every few years. Wine values change over time, so it’s important to get the full value covered.
Step 5: Track Your Bottles and Keep Accurate Records
Just as important as knowing how to build a wine collection from the ground up is knowing how to keep all of your bottles organized. You’ll find that the more wine you invest in, the harder it is to keep track of each bottle. One of the most common organization problems I see among collectors both new and experienced is that they forget about their older bottles in their excitement to add to their collection. When a wine has great aging potential, it’s easy to let it sit in storage for years. By the time you remember you have it, your wine may be past its peak.
A cellar tracking app keeps a log of all of the bottles you own as well as their ideal drinking windows. This allows you to 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.
It’s also important to keep all of your receipts and storage paperwork for every bottle you buy. When you are a casual drinker, provenance doesn’t matter, but you have to prove provenance if you intend to sell any wine. Future buyers will want to see where you bought the wine to ensure it’s legitimate. They also like to see proof of professional storage because it’s a sign that the wine has been well cared for. You can request that your storage service provider keep these documents on file or are willing to inspect your wine and vouch for its quality.
Resources That Will Help You Build a Great Wine Collection
There are lots of resources available to help you learn how to build a wine collection. No matter how much experience you have with wine, you should find the following tools useful:
- The Vincellar app provides a way to manage your collection and aggregates notes and scores from professional critics and collectors to help you find wines that may interest you.
- Liv-ex tracks prices and other market data for the most collectible wines on the market.
- The Wine Advocate vintage guide shows you average vintage scores for each of the most notable wine regions in the world.
- The Wine Berserkers forum gives you the chance to learn from other collectors and discuss tasting notes as well as the latest wine industry news.
- Private client services provided by wine experts help you improve your collection and discover new wines that experts believe will be profitable in the future.
- Sommeliers and wine shop owners are a great resource. Eating dinner at a wine bar or asking questions in your local wine store can introduce you to many new styles and producers.
- Books on wine and wine-related podcasts can help beginners break into the fine wine industry.
- The Vinfolio wine shop is a marketplace for both top-quality, carefully inspected wines from other collectors and collectible wines shipped directly from the producer.
Collectors have more resources than ever before to help them learn how to build a wine collection. In the past, it was necessary to have previous experience with wine or connections in the industry in order to make the best choices for a wine collection. Now, experts and other collectors are available online 24/7 to help you navigate this complex process and get the most enjoyment from your collection. It’s never been easier to invest in the most delicious and valuable wines in the world.
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 finest wine.