How to Choose the Best Wine for Your Collection
Looking for tips to start a wine collection? Here’s our beginner-friendly guide.
There are more than 10,000 wine grape varieties—and that's just the grapes. From each grape, there is an ever-growing list of types of wines that can be produced. In fact, if you sampled one wine a day, it would take you over 30 years to try them all – and that’s a conservative estimate.
This begs the question: How do you start a wine collection? Which wines do you choose when there are so many different options out there? What do you need to know to build a diversified selection that will help you meet your goals as a wine collector? How much will it cost?
We’ve got your answers right here in this guide.
Below, we’re sharing tips on how to build an impressive wine collection that you can be proud of, even as a complete beginner to wine.
Let’s get started.
Top Considerations Before Starting Your Wine Collection
The idea of building a wine collection may sound fun, exciting, and even charming, but it's definitely not an endeavor to rush into without proper planning. You may be a lover of wine (new or old), but if you don't go into collecting with a strategy, you may find yourself easily overwhelmed and overspent.
Here's what you should know and do before starting your wine collection:
Know Your Purpose
What are you hoping to gain from building a wine collection?
From pleasure to profit, there are so many great benefits to building a wine collection. Perhaps you’re hoping to build a private collection for you and your friends and family to enjoy. Or perhaps you have hopes of turning your collection into a profitable business where you age and then sell in-demand wine.
By identifying what you hope to accomplish with your collection, you will have a better understanding of which bottles to buy and store.
Understand the Time Commitment
A proper wine collection cannot be built overnight. It may take you years to build a collection that you’re proud of. And if you’re planning on aging your wine, it will also take years of patience while you wait for those wines to develop.
(But keep in mind that 90% of wine is meant to be consumed within two to five years. If you’d like to age wine for longer than that, check with the producer to ensure that the wine is meant to be aged.)
Set Your Initial Budget
Collecting wine is an expensive hobby, but you can make it budget friendlier by setting a realistic (to you) financial limit on how much you can spend to start building your wine collection.
When building a wine collection from scratch, many beginners start with a budget of $10,000. But some start with a tenth of that amount. Remember these two things: Your budget is what you can afford, and you’ll continue to add new wines throughout the years. So start where you feel comfortable, and if you can afford to spend more, it will help you build up a sizable collection quickly.
Create a Storage Location
Before starting your wine collection, consider where you’ll store your wine. You have options, such as investing in wine fridges, building your own cellar, or renting space at a long term wine storage facility.
Ideally, it’s best to create your own cellar. This will save you money in the long run, while also ensuring that your wine is stored in the best possible environment. The second option is to use wine fridges, but that’s best if you have a small collection of under 100 bottles, and don’t plan on aging your wine over the span of a decade or two.
Be Prepared to Learn
No matter how familiar you are with wine, you'll unlock another level when you begin collecting your own. You'll enter an entirely new world that includes cellar designs, environmental considerations, diversifying your wine collection, and properly rotating it to ensure that nothing over ages and possibly spoils—and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
You'll definitely need to commit yourself to learning the ins and outs of your new hobby.
Make a Commitment
Collecting wine requires a long term commitment. When starting your collection, you won't reap the benefits tomorrow or even next month. In fact, it may be years before you can taste the fruits of your labor. But few experiences compare to uncorking a vintage wine that you’ve carefully preserved for years. Ultimately, wine collecting is a rewarding experience, but it does require patience, persistence, and commitment on your end.
How to Start Your Wine Collection
Here's what you need to do to successfully start your collection:
Begin With Research
As we mentioned in the start of this guide, there are thousands of different wines out there. You shouldn't buy before you know more about the wine, including its characteristics and its lifecycle. But going a step further, especially if you plan to sell the wine down the road, you should also learn about the winery, how the wine was made, and its aging potential. Collectively, this is known as provenance.
Set out to discover as much as possible about the wines in your collection. Even if you never plan to sell, understanding the identity of your wines will help you discover more about your own personal preferences. And you’ll look like a complete expert at your next wine tasting party, because you will be!
Understand the Different Wine Types
Yes, there are a dizzying amount of wines. To get you started on the main types of wine, here's a quick overview:
Red wine comes from black-skinned grapes. Like white wine, the juice itself is without color, but red wine's crimson hue comes from pressing the grape skin.
Red wine has a bitter taste, and this comes from the tannins that are present in the grape skins. These tannins also help to preserve the wine. Because of this natural preservative, red wine has the capacity to age for much longer than tannin-free white wines.
Red wine can have fruity flavors, specifically in the red berry family, such as cranberry, raspberry, and strawberry. They may also taste like other fruits, including blueberry, plum, and cherry.
Popular red wines to add to your collection include:
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Pinot Noir
White wine usually comes from green or yellow grapes, however it is possible to make white wine from red skinned grapes as long as the grape skin is removed.
White wines can be dry or sweet. Dryness is the way that the wine tastes. Wine is considered dry when it's not sweet and there's no lingering sugar. This happens when all of the grape's sugar has been converted to alcohol.
Taste-wise, white wines have a crisp flavor when compared to reds. This is due to its high acidity levels. White wines are typically fruity, with flavors of apple, peach, and lime. They can also have floral aromas.
While white wines don't have the aging capacity of reds, that doesn't mean that they can't age.
Some white wines are perfect for cellars, especially Chardonnay, Riesling, and Pinot Gris. If you'd like to age a white wine, choose one that has a high acidity level because it acts as a natural preservative.
Also consider a wine that has a fruity flavor, as these tend to age well.
How long can white wines age?
Always check with the manufacturer, but high quality white wines that are meant to be aged can be stored between five to 15 years.
Popular white wines to add to your collection include:
- Pinot Grigio
- Sauvignon Blanc
Work With a Consultant
Not sure where to find wines for your collection? Work with a wine expert. You can usually find a wine consultant at a local wine retailer, but you can also check these sources:
A wine expert can steer you in the right direction and even recommend unique and obscure wines that you’ve never tried before.
Work Within Your Budget
As we mentioned earlier in this guide, it’s crucial to set a budget before you begin building your wine collection.
Working within your budget, choose wines that allow you to create the foundation for a diverse collection.
If you’re working with a smaller budget, resist the urge to buy blue chip labels which can quickly eat away your budget. It’s okay to start small.
Create a Balanced Cellar
When building your wine collection, it should include a mix of different types of reds and whites, and at different levels of maturity. And although you may have show off pieces in your collection, you should also have everyday wines to enjoy with dinner and friends. Choose wines from reputable sources, whether that's from wineries or retailers.
A good start would be 40% reds, 40% whites, and 20% special varieties, including champagnes, rosés, and desserts.
Ideally, you should drink the aged wines and the everyday wines first, because they're ready to be consumed now. Also note that the aging wines should represent the largest amount of your cellar collection. After all, these are the ones that you built your cellar for, and should stay in your cellar for a minimum of five years.
A Look at the Best Investment Wines for Beginners
Here’s a round up of the best wines to collect for investments:
- Chardonnay (Napa Valley)
- Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley)
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Port, or other Fortified Wines
Champagne is a type of sparkling wine that is produced in the Champagne region of France. The most famous types of champagne include:
- Louis Roederer Cristal (40% Chardonnay and 60% Pinot Noir)
- Moët et Chandon Brut Impérial (40% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Meunier)
- Moët et Chandon Dom Pérignon (50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay)
Always check with the label to determine if the wine can be aged or not.
Starting your wine collection can be exciting and daunting at the same time. But remember that your wine collection is a reflection of your personality. It should be as unique and multi-faceted as you are. Use the above tips to help you create a rewarding wine collection that you can be proud of.