“Wine, even for the investor or collector, is not just a holder of wealth. It’s a holder of dreams.”
I agree 100% with this quote from a panelist at a recent seminar I attended. However, interestingly enough, in a session described as “starting your wine collection,” many of the panelists didn’t consider themselves wine collectors at all; but rather, just people who love wine and need a place to store it until they drink it. Most seemed to view wine collections more as an accessible and pleasurable assembly than as a formulaic and formal dusty collection.
The panel, hosted by FIAF in its midtown Le Skyroom, was led by Hristo Zisovski, Beverage Director at Ai Fiori. Hristo was joined by Charles Antin, Associate Vice President & Wine Specialist at Christie’s, Michael Chaney, CEO of MEA Digital & Private Wine Collector, and Emmanuel Dupuy d’Angeac, Owner & Founder, AOC Fine Wines.
Below, I put my key takeaways from the panel discussion. Maybe some of them are obvious, but good reminders nonetheless. Anything else you’d add? Lessons you’ve learned as you’ve assembled your own collection? Please share!
Wine Buyers & Cellars Lessons
The Big Ones
- Think about what you already like. Find wine enthusiasts who also love that wine and pick their brains, find out what they’re buying, even buy bottles from them.
- Discover and learn. Keep yourself interested. Hristo’s recommended reading for potential new ideas includes Decanter magazine, Wine & Spirits, Eric’s articles in the NYTimes…[and my own addition] blogs like Terroirist.com.
Other Cool Ones
- Stop chasing the critics & magazines. Get to know a wine shop owner or retailer well. They’ll know your tastes (and budget) better than Robert P. will.
- In good vintages, buy smaller chateaux down the street from the big guys. In “bad” vintages, buy from the big guys. Slightly worse vintages aren’t that bad when it’s from a reputable house.
- Buy for occasions and how you live. Think about situations when you’ll want to open a bottle and stock your cellar for those occasions. E.g., your anniversary, your kid’s birthday, having your boss over for dinner, having your next door neighbor over for drinks on the porch. The big things and the little things.
- Don’t twist or turn your bottles unless you’re drinking them. Leave riddling to the pros in Champagne. Your stuff is better left alone.
- Steady temperature is ideal and important, but do the best you can and don’t flip out about it. A.C. didn’t exist when some of the best old wines were aging, and they still taste fine. Especially if you’re cellaring them for your own enjoyment vs. to sell to auction, it’s NOT the end of the world. It’s wine. That said, if you’re in Arizona with a massive cellar, think about a back-up power source.
- Get other people excited about what you like and share your passion. It’s contagious and will likely lead to your friends enjoying what you enjoy. The opposite can be dicey – just because a magazine writer gets excited by 1997 California Cabs doesn’t mean you need cases of it.
To close out, one final takeaway on “blue-chip” wines. They’re consistent and they last. They’re predictable. However, remember (especially with today’s en primeur system): the market predicts how the wine will go up in value and prices it today already expecting that change. So, yes, you can make money…but unless you know something that the market doesn’t (and you have the means to store it perfectly and guarantee provenance), you’re not going to make much. Perhaps this quote from the tasting, which I’ve heard before in various iterations, sums up the investment in wine, as well as wine-lovers obsession with the stuff. “Wine…is always moving ahead of you.”