If you love to drink wine, collecting it is a great way to continue doing so. After all, having a personal selection of bottles comes in handy when you want to toast a special occasion with friends or enjoy a glass or two on a random Tuesday evening.
Starting may seem daunting at first (What wines do I keep? How much should I have? Can I afford this?), but regardless if you're a beginner or a connoisseur, wine collecting can be fun (and affordable). Napa Valley WALT Winemaker Megan Gunderson Paredes, who has studied winemaking techniques in France and has multiple degrees in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, provides a few tips on what to do and what not to do when you're collecting. These tips will help you to focus on what's genuinely important: enjoying good wine.
Have a mixture of “drink now” and “drink later” bottles
While there's no hard or fast rule about what percentage of your collection should be for present and future consumption, ideally, you have some for both. Having a personal wine collection is a lot less fun if you're only staring at labels, waiting for the right time to drink a specific wine. Says Gunderson Paredes, “It really depends on how much quality wine storage space you have and the varietal, but I would recommend 1/3 as 'drink now' and 2/3 for aging." You also don't need to have a large dedicated cellar — a wine fridge or cool storage space in your house can also work.
Diversify your collection
Like a good stock portfolio, a good wine collection should be diverse. Wine is subjective, so don't limit yourself to just one type of wine or be afraid to try different ones. Your tastes will also likely change over time, or even day to day, depending on your mood, meal, or guests. Gunderson Paredes suggests that it's good to have a mix of regions and varietals "so that you can learn how many different kinds of wine taste and evolve with age."
With so many options and types of wine, how does one choose? Well, half the fun is figuring out what you enjoy drinking by actually drinking it — and unlike 99 percent of school, that's homework you won't mind doing. "Cast a wide net," says Gunderson Paredes. "Try everything that interests you. Nurture your unique palate. Also, subscribe to The Wine Advocate or Wine Spectator — both very good resources for wines from around the world."
Start with local wines
You're going to have to start somewhere, so a comfortable place to look is in your backyard. Gunderson Paredes recommends starting with wines you can get locally, ideally even purchase from the winery directly. From there, you can gradually broaden your collection. "Then add a few bottles from Burgundy, Bordeaux, Italy, etc. — regions you would like to learn more about. And over time, you will learn what you like to collect/what your preferences are.”
Keep track of your bottles and vintages
The last thing you want to do is to save a nice bottle of wine for so long that it ages past its prime. How long a particular bottle keeps depends on the growing region, producer, and quality of your storage environment. However, "in general, most wines will age well, and positively evolve over time," says Gunderson Paredes.
Buy your wine from reputable places
Sure, you can buy wine from any bodega and most grocery stores, but Gunderson Paredes has a few suggestions. “I like K&L Wine Merchants (a few California locations), Kermit Lynch (Berkeley, CA), and Benchmark (Napa, CA) — these are all reputable sources that have a great online presence." She notes that Benchmark and Kermit Lynch are also great places to find rare bottles.
You can also go straight to the source. "If you can get to the winery and purchase directly, that is the best option, in my opinion. Often, you will be able to taste the wine you'd like to purchase."
You don’t need to break the bank
"Wine can be expensive, but there are many imports from around the world that give a lot of bang for your buck," says Gunderson Paredes. Do your research before purchasing, and don't be tempted only by high scores and prices; just because a wine costs a lot doesn't mean you'll personally like it. There are many apps available to help you find more information about any particular wine. Gunderson Paredes recommends Vivino (on iOS and Android) or Delectable (on iOS and Android), which, with just a scan of the label, can help you research wine scores, find where the best prices are, and show you what other consumers are saying about particular wines. These apps can also help manage and keep track of your growing collection.
Essential Tips for Collecting Wine
|Have some for now and for later||Aim for ~1/3 of your bottles for drinking now and 2/3 for drinking later|
|Diversify your collection||Don’t limit yourself to just one varietal or region|
|Taste test different wines||Try different wines to figure out what you enjoy|
|Start local||Start with wines you can taste/buy locally and expand from there|
|Keep track of your wines||Make sure you know what bottles you have and how long each should age|
|Buy from reputable places||Source your wine from knowledgeable distributors/stores or directly from wineries|
|Know before you buy||Use apps to research different wines, their scores/ratings, and their best prices|
Armed with a strategy, it is time to visit your local wine shop and start purchasing some new wines. Before you go, make sure you've signed up for Grand Reserve Rewards—you'll earn rewards points on every purchase at wineries, wine clubs, and wine stores.