Like quite a lot of other things people collect (stamps, cars, art, and so on) wine has well-documented histories and vintages, meaning it is has definitive value. The right wines, of course, increase in value over time - and it’s not unusual to hear of someone investing in wine. Because of these traits, wine is a great thing to collect; in fact rarer wines are among the most sought-after collectibles - and priced accordingly! So, are you wanting to look at building up your own wine collection?
Why not just buy rare or expensive wines?
There’s no need to go all-out and start looking at the most expensive bottles you can possibly find (especially because some of them really do retail for hundreds of thousands of dollars a pop... not kidding). Prices of certain wines can seem a little crazy, but sometimes there’s good reason: in 2011, two bottles of champagne salvaged from a 170-year-old shipwreck auctioned for US$78,400 each. They were reportedly still drinkable, too, due to being stored on their sides, in darkness, and under pressure (at the bottom of the sea)! These bottles were sold for a very high price because they were not only rare, but has amazing stories and the documentation to prove it.
So, aside from shipwrecks and treasure at the bottom of the sea, if you’re still keen to start collecting wine, what are some tips to get you started on the right foot?
Have the moneys
It might sound obvious, but the first thing we’d advise would be this: don’t try to collect high-end bottles of wines if you’re struggling to make ends meet or pay your rent. There are two reasons for this: firstly the cost of the bottle itself, but you also need to invest in appropriate storage, insurance, keeping or sourcing documentation, not to mention security to stop them from getting nicked! Starting out a wine collection can cost as much as you are willing to spend - literally.
Practice your record keeping skills
Wherever or however you choose to store them, keep your wines in an order that makes sense to you. You should know where each bottle is, and how many you have. Although it’s very possible to keep great analogue records, there is now software on the market that makes this part very easy. Remember: it’s ok to drink some of your wines, as long as you note it down in your records (ideally with your own tasting notes). You fancy wine collector, you.
Get a wine-worthy cellar
Wine is delicate; even more so when it starts to age. Really old wines need to be handled with extremely delicate hands, so ensure you can access it without needing to bend over boxes, lean on beams or balance on a wobbly rock under the house. Storage-wise, wine likes cool, humid environments of around 12°C, and 75% relative humidity. Consider this environment if you are planning on building your cellar under your house: you could be introducing a mould issue, having the house on top of an area that’s relatively damp! The best cellars are secure, detached and well-insulated. If you can’t build this for whatever reason, consider storing your wines at an external storage place made to store wine.
Not every wine is worthy of your wine-worthy cellar
It’s pretty unlikely a bottle you’ve plucked off the shelf of your bottle shop for $50 will ever be a sought-after wine collectible, unless it happens to have an amazing story (like it was the first wine on the moon, or was eaten then regurgitated whole by a lion). It needs to have significance. Think: what is valuable, rare, and sought-after now? That will be indicative of what’s worthy of wine collections in the future.
Keep absolutely every tiny scrap of paperwork
And by the paperwork, we mean everything - keep the original purchase receipt, auction text, the business card of the person who sold it… literally everything. It’s also a good idea to write a description of any marks that make your bottle unique. Keep these documents as you would your valuable wine: safely catalogued and stored.
Know what it’s all worth, from time to time
The collectible wine market can be volatile - so it’s good to know what kind of value you’re sitting on over time. Accidents can and do happen as well, so if your cellar burns down or you’re robbed and you hope to collect insurance on any of it, they’d better be well-documented and have recent appraised values.
Leave ‘em alone
Even if you want to show them off! Let your babies sleep, never ship them unless you have to, and keep people away from the bottles. If you buy or are given a very old wine, let it sit for about six weeks before even thinking of drinking the stuff. It’s very sensitive!
Stuff that’s too good to be true...
It’s unfortunately easy to fake wine, as old-looking bottles are easy to come by. A good rule of thumb: use your sense of reason to not be duped, and don’t buy an 1860s vintage Champagne out of a van.
Right now you might be feeling overwhelmed, but don’t forget that your own collection doesn’t need to start at an international wine auction held in Paris. There are plenty of wine collector groups, local auctions, and informed individuals you can find via a quick Google who can help you down the path to collecting wine you want, little bit by little bit.
Remember what you like
Trends and marketing hype drives markets, but you’re collecting wine because you want to collect wine - don’t confuse the two. Always buy, cellar, and drink what you like. A trend can guide you towards a possible investment, but it’s always best to buy what you yourself like to drink.
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