PRO-TIP / for new wine collectors
Leah Jorgensen Jean
THE COMMON STAGES OF WINE COLLECTING
The journey from not drinking wine, to occasionally drinking wine, to obsessing over wine is one of enchantment and discovery.
I remember when I first got interested in wine I had no preconceived notions about what I wanted to discover. I just enjoyed trying new wines in the company of my friends, and it typically was in the context of sharing a meal. But then I caught the wine bug and left a corporate think tank in Washington, DC to manage a wine shop, and that began my twenty plus years working in wine. While most will not pursue a career in wine, many new wine drinkers will evolve into wine collectors. There’s a natural progression that comes with transitioning from a novice to an enthusiast.
Here are the stages that wine collecting typically involves:
Discovery: This stage involves exploring different wines, regions, and vintages to understand the nuances and characteristics of different wines. I identify this with the “falling in love” phase. Everything is so new and exciting! You had no idea how many kinds of wines were out there and you feel compelled to try as much of it that you can get your hands on. You go to wine tastings, wine events, wineries, wine shops, wine bars and you start making friends who are also into wine so you can expand your opportunities and experiences to taste. Eventually, you start identifying your favorite wines. It’s very romantic.
Acquisition: Once you have identified the types of wines you want to collect, you start purchasing them. Some collectors prefer to buy wine directly from wineries, while others buy from specialized wine shops, online retailers, or wine auctions. Either way, you’re not just tasting wines anymore. You are bringing bottles home, ordering online and trying to figure out where to put all of your newly coveted bottles that you can’t wait to open up and share with your serious wine friends.
Cellaring: After acquiring the wine, the next stage involves storing the wine in a suitable environment that can preserve the wine’s quality and maturity. This includes controlling the temperature, humidity, and light exposure to protect the wine from damage. You have learned that you can’t keep bottles on a rack on top of your fridge. You have to actually protect the wine you have bought. And you keep buying wine, so now you really need to figure out where to put all of your purchases – which is now evolving into quite a collection.
Aging: As the wine is stored, it will mature and develop complex flavors and aromas. This stage requires patience as it can take several years or even decades for some wines to reach their peak maturity. So, now you realize you have two kinds of wines in your collection: the majority that will not age beyond five years, and the rest that will age beyond five years. So, your next step in this stage is to separate your collection into those two wine categories and make sure the wine that will age beyond five years are properly stored for aging. The rest, drink first. Consider throwing a party with your wine loving friends if you have a lot of wine that won’t age beyond five years. Don’t waste your money by holding on to those wines for too long. Consider making better wine buying decisions and invest more in the wines that will age so there’s no pressure to get through them quickly.
Enjoyment: The final stage is to enjoy the wine. Some collectors prefer to hold onto their wines for long periods, while others enjoy their wine over time or share it with friends and family. Either way, it’s important to have a plan with your acquired wine bottles. And know your “why”. Are you collecting wine as an investment? Or are you collecting to appreciate the cellar aging of your favorite bottles? Or both? Either way, knowing what you’ve got, knowing how to manage your collection, and having a plan for opening them, sharing them or trading/selling them will make for a truly enjoyable wine collecting experience.
It’s worth noting that wine collecting can be a highly personal and subjective endeavor, and there may be variations in the way different collectors approach each stage. Do your research and set goals for what you want to get out of your wine collection.