September 22, 2019   12:29am
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Michele Talks: How to Start a Wine “Collection”

If you’ve ever thought that you’d like to start your own wine “collection,” you’ll want to read our “Wine” expert Michele’s advice on what to choose and how to store it — even without a wine cellar

On New Year’s Eve, we uncorked a 25-year-old Bordeaux — the last bottle of several cases of first growths we’d bought as futures before their release in 1982. The prices then were $25-45 a bottle, depending on the wine. That bottle of 1982 Mouton Rothschild today goes for around $1,300 at auction.

That was one of many occasions we’ve marked with a special wine, and it really made me think of how much fun it has been collecting over the yearsI … buying cases to put down and rediscover later, observing how time has mellowed and refined our Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignons, Sauternes, and Ports. In a few unfortunate instances, we’ve let our wines age too long, learning the hard way that older is not necessarily better.

Perhaps 2008 would be a good year for you to start a collection for future enjoyment. You needn’t have an actual wine cellar — just a way of keeping the temperature a uniform 52-56 degrees and the humidity 55-70 percent, to prevent the cork from drying out. We get by with two small wine storage units and also rent a 10-case, temperature-controlled locker from a local retailer.

Start with a small inventory of a few cases of reds and whites with a decade or more of aging potential. Good bets include German and Austrian Rieslings and Gewurztraminers; French white and red Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rhones; Italian Super Tuscans Barolos and Brunellos; Spanish Ribera del Dueros; and American Cabernets as well as some vintage Champagnes, Ports, Sherries, and dessert wines such as Sauternes.

Make friends with a reputable wine retailer and, if possible, try before you buy. As we discovered with many of our wines, you can save significantly by stocking up on wines in their infancy, when you can get them for a song.

Don’t buy more than a case of wine if it’s a new vintage or blend with no proven track record for aging, or if the retailer can’t accurately estimate its aging potential. Also, don’t bother using your valuable storage for cheap wines. At current energy prices, storage costs $2-3 per bottle per year, so make sure the wines are worth that investment.

To avoid our experience of over-aging wines by forgetting they are there (which can happen easily if you have an off-site locker), make a database of your inventory. Include the wine’s name, vintage, producer, appellation, vineyard name, region, country, type, quantity owned, price paid per bottle and bottle size (half-bottle, magnum, etc.). Include the date range for optimal drinking. You can find some sophisticated databases (Google “wine collection databases”) available to make this task easier.

Now, on New Year’s Eve 2015 (or when special company comes for dinner, or you want to mark a milestone anniversary, or you feel like celebrating for no particular reason), you’ll be able to pull the perfect bottle from your own collection.
Happy New Year and happy collecting!

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