It’s not every day that one gets to drink Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tache Grand Cru Monopole 1999, but when you’re a wine collector, drinking a bottle this rare could happen a few times in your life. For us, it hasn’t happened yet. Could it be we’re hanging out in the wrong wine circles?
Anyone Can Do It
Historically, wine has been seen as a luxury item: television depicting wine as the liquid of the rich, with “Great Gatsby” style champagne towers, women dressed in diamonds and pearls, and old grey hairs going on and on about Bordeaux. We are pleased to say those days are past and wine is finally a product for all. The barriers of entry have been lifted – anyone can be a wine collector, no matter the age or demographic. Certainly, just like anything, collecting wine takes time, an open mind, and a bit of research, but anyone can do it. There are more resources available today than ever before and one should never be afraid to ask questions. If you are consistently tasting new wines, you’ll quickly have an overall understanding of the basics.
Unlike books, art, or jewelry, wine is an agricultural product. There is a shelf life, an expiration date. This is why less people collect wine than other material items. Some might say collecting wine is a bit more of a risk, especially for the inexperienced. The rest of us say it’s all part of the fun. It’s important to note that not all wine is intended to be aged: a light, fresh, easy drinking white, rosé, or red all below $20 are generally wines that should be consumed within 3-5 years. The reality is that most wines produced are meant to be enjoyed right away.
Once you have decided to begin your wine journey, the first step is a trip to your local wine retailer. There is no guidebook on what to collect, however, there is a fundamental criteria that you must follow: start with what you like and build accordingly. There is no point in collecting wines that you don’t enjoy drinking. Slow and steady growth is the optimal way in achieving the wine collection of your dreams.
Set aside a monthly wine budget that will go directly towards building your ideal cellar. It doesn’t have to be large, but it does have to be consistent. Start small and gradually increase as you become more confident in the process.
Part of the budget will go directly towards wines that will lay down and be forgotten for a few years, the remainder of the budget will purchase the wine for your home – the daily drinkers. These wines will be used as a tool to expand your wine knowledge. Over time, a collection will begin to amass. Keep in mind, there will be many instances when you can’t find the wine you are looking for locally. In these situations, there is the option to purchase from a private seller, online retailers, or big auction houses such as Acker Merrall & Condit (Acker Wines), Zachys Wine Auction, and Hart Davis Hart just to name a few. But let’s face it, when it comes to rare bottle collecting, it’s still all about who you know.
We sat down with Eddie Meyers from Brookhaven Wines to get a bit more insight into Atlanta’s wine collectors. Eddie wears many hats in the Atlanta wine scene, but most notably, Meyers works with clients throughout the city managing their wine cellars. Myers has a rotating list of roughly 100 collectors who use his services to organize, inventory, catalogue, and fill their personal cellars. His client list, which is solely built from referrals, ranges from aspiring collectors to wine aficionados. There is no collection too small or too large for Meyers. Outside of cellar management, one of Myers most common call ahead services is travel planning and the pre-selection of wines for dinners at restaurants – this can be for corporations or individuals.
People collect wine for two reasons: for personal consumption or as an investment. Sorry friends, this is not your get-rich-quick investment approach – don’t make this hobby the main part of your investment portfolio. You’ll be highly disappointed. A large portion of wine stored in private cellars is there to be aged and drunk at a later time. Many will be given away as gifts or shared with friends and family. We asked Eddie what he thought motivated people to collect wine to which he responded, “People collect things in general because there is a collector’s need in the brain that searches to find the acquisition, the possession of things. Whether it’s shoes, handbags, baseball cards, and for an extreme example you can look at a property tycoon and say they are doing the same with high-rises…it just depends on what our brain cliques with.”
Be sure you are properly storing your bottles on their side in a cool, dark space. While Excel spreadsheets are great, we highly recommended using CellarTracker to manage your wine inventory. If you already have a significant amount of wine that has not been catalogued, this is a perfect opportunity to consult with your trusted wine retailer to take on the task.
When adding to your collection, purchasing multiple bottles of the same wine allows you to revisit the vintage every few years to explore the wine’s evolution. And don’t forget, wine does not have to break the bank!
Meyers suggests aging moderately priced wines around $25-30. A beautiful bottle of red Burgundy with 18 months of age can give it just enough time to “settle into its own power.” Drinking a bottle that has had time to age is “like being in a wine region and understanding it for the first time. It’s so soft, smooth, and so integrated. It’s a pretty bell curve from start to finish in terms of the flavor profile” says Meyers as we enjoy a beautiful glass of 2011 Podere Poggio Scalette ‘Il Carbonaione’ from his personal collection.
Deciding when to open a bottle of wine might be the most intimidating part of having a collection. But have no fear – there is no perfect time to open your bottle of wine. If you wait for that “special” occasion, you may never open it. Wine is subjective, so have fun with it!
There is something very euphoric about a remarkable bottle of wine. A fond memory of a wine can take you back to the exact time and place the wine was consumed. That special wine that can never be forgotten. Take notes, take photos, and share wine with friends. And always remember, whichever path you take in your wine collection journey, buy what you love drinking. Wine is the ultimate love story.
Sarah’s Holiday Gift Pick
2018 Leonetti Sangiovese, Walla Walla, Washington
This Sangiovese is made to age for 20 – 30 years in your cellar! Full body red, with a rich mouthfeel and firm tannins. Black cherry fruit notes, with hints of dried herb, and graphite. This wine is made to age so lay this bottle down and don’t look back for another 20 years. $105 at 3 Parks Wine Shop
Katie’s Holiday Gift Pick
2006 Remelluri Reserva, Rioja, Spain
Made from all three traditional old vine grapes of Rioja (Tempranillo, Graciano, and Garnacha) this wine is the epitome of the Old World. Winemaker, Telmo Rodriguez selected the 2006 as a library release because of the “exceptional vintage and it’s beautiful evolution.” This wine has been aged in oak for 17 months before resting in the cellar. Notes of concentrated, dark, red fruits, ripe tannins and an unmistakable complexity of earth and leather. It can be rested for at least a decade. Bonus: organic farming, low intervention winemaking, unfiltered and only minimal sulfites at bottling. $78 at VinoTeca