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Collecting and Cellaring Wine

Collecting and Cellaring Wine

Collecting and Cellaring Wine

"What's a good year?" I'm often asked about wine.
"Why?" I question.
"Because I want to buy some wine to lay down" I'm told.
"Well that all depends on why you want to lay it down. Do you want to create a cellar for yourself, or buy to re-sell as an investment, or lay down for a special occasion?" I ask.
"Errrrr not sure, I think for me, for later." The response.
"How much do you want to spend and what are you looking for?"
"Not sure, not much and I like everything." was the "helpful" reply

The conversations go on and on but "laying wine down" is at the tip of many people's tongue once into wine.
Laying down wine means to putting wine to one side in favourable conditions and allowing it to mature and improve with age. 
For most people the "laying down" occurs in their own cellars but others with large amounts of wine (and cash) use controlled cellars where companies cellar your wine in guaranteed controlled and insured conditions much like rented storage units.
I'm going to be discussing the former as I don’t think the latter is something your average wine drinker is particularly interested in.

Collecting and Cellaring Wine

So why "lay down" wine?

Well, there are many reasons for laying down wine but the main reason is that some wines improve with age and with that can come higher re-sale value or, for the most part, higher satisfaction when drinking it. 
Some people lay down wine to mark an occasion such as a birth or an event.
For example if a baby is born someone may buy a case of that year's wine so that baby can drink the wine on their wedding day or 21st birthday etc.

Some people create a cellar to leave to their children, sort of an inheritance or even a dowry that they are still able tap into a bit while they are alive.

Some find a case or 2 of wine, perhaps while on holiday, and lay it down.
Every 6 months or so a bottle is opened to see how it is improving.
Some take notes, others just remember, either way opening the next bottle is always an event they look forward to.
Will it or won't it be better?

Let me start by saying that if you are looking to buy wine for re-sale then you will need more than a wine fridge or dark room to store it.
Wine buyers are looking for proof of cellaring conditions before they buy.
After all we're not talking small amounts of money here and they need to guarantee their investment.
So, if you're thinking about investing in wine for re-sale you'll need to talk to a professional before you do it.
Depending on your budget and unless you have a fantastic climate controlled cellar you're most likely to be out-sourcing and paying for the privilege.

For most people, laying down wine means allowing the wine to mature and improve for their own enjoyment.

Collecting and Cellaring Wine

So, how do you know what to lay down? Here are a couple of quick pointers:

First of all, ask questions about a wines longevity before purchasing.
It’s all well and good buying wine but if your buying the wrong wine you will either need to have a party to drink it while it’s ready or pour it down the sink because it’s past it’s prime.

Not all wines are cellarable.
A lot of wines are made to be drunk today and will be spoiled if they sit in a cellar. 

In general white wines have a shorter cellar life than reds (there are some exceptions).

Know your producer, do your homework.
Some producers are renowned for using new world techniques that can bring out the flavours in the wine making it drinkable at release while others are renowned for using old world techniques requiring the wine to be laid down before they are at their prime to drink.

Certain grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo and Malbec lend themselves to long term cellaring due to their high tannin and acidity (tannins soften with age).
Others such as Pinot Noir, Gamay and Tempranillo with lighter tannin have a lesser cellaring timeframe as their delicate light tannins are quickly lost.

Just because it’s got a fancy label or comes from a big wine producing area doesn’t mean it’s going to taste any better after 3 years in your cellar, don’t be fooled by appearances.

By wine books or magazines that have specific producer, label and vintage information.
Often these will tell you if the wine is worth cellaring.

Here's a link to an interesting infographic by Wine Folly about what wines to cellar http://winefolly.com/tutorial/cellar-wine-guide/

Collecting and Cellaring Wine

Should I or shouldn't I create a cellar?

Well, that's up to you, the choice is yours alone.
If you want to cellar you should be prepared to have a chunk of money sitting under your stairs. It costs a lot of money to create a maturing cellar.

You have to ask yourself some questions as to why you're cellaring. 

For some people it's the ability to bring out a special bottle for a special occasion, for others it’s the nurturing and care that gives pleasure especially when the wine becomes “of age” and is spectacular to drink.
For some it’s about bragging rights and bringing out the big guns in front of the Jones'.  
More often than not it’s a combination of some of the above plus it's because you've found the wine at a good price and you want to be able to enjoy it for a few years especially if it gets better.

I once asked a Barolo producer how long he would recommend laying down his wines for, here's his answer:

"In my opinion the best collection of wine is one of empty bottles. I make my wine to be enjoyed now, not in 20 years."

For me, I subscribe to the same mantra as Barolo guy.
I want to drink my wine now and not leave it for someone else.
I don’t have a budget for a big cellar and I don't particularly want to have big money sitting where it might go off as my cellaring conditions aren't the best.
But I do have bottles that have improved with age, not many, 50 or 60 bottles and i'm happy with that.
I live in France remember so I feel that if I want to have a special bottle i'll go and find it, there are many options.

There are many portals nowadays for consumers to purchase affordable and incredible wines so the need to cellar has subsided somewhat.
It used to be that if one wanted a good bottle of wine one had to have it in one's cellar.
Not any more, the internet and changing face of wine exportation has changed that greatly.

So, if cellaring is what you want, do your homework before you jump in and take as much advice as you can get. 

For others thinking about doing it; in my opinion it’s great to have a few bottles/cases at hand but do you really need to tie up funds when you can get cracking wine quickly and easily anytime you need it?

You decide.

Here are a couple of links to companies that can help with cellaring:

BBR (UK) - http://www.bbr.com/cellar-plan

Lay and Wheeler (UK) - https://www.laywheeler.com/cellarcircle

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