How to Start a Wine Collection

Last Updated on August 25, 2020 by Bill Allen

Wine Collecting for the Novice to the Professional

Collecting wine is a good way to age, keep, and always have wines on hand that you actually enjoy drinking and can even take pride in owning as a collector.

However, even for the biggest wine lover, investing in wine is a big step and requires doing your homework on how wine is made and aged, what to spend, and how to avoid the dangers of spoiling your collection.

Remember to invest in wines that you truly love and enjoy and try not to get wrapped up in “wines of the moment.”

Before you start, attend wine tastings, join a wine group, and get to know your local wine merchants. Wine collecting is about being able to cultivate your passion into a memorable and solid collection.

Keeping Cellar Records

With a growing collection and the hectic lifestyles of today, losing track of your wines wont be too hard. Cellar records can help you save money by keeping you from having to throw out that old wine.

Cellar books are a handy way to jot down the name of the wine, its bin number or location in the rack, and a few lines for tasting notes. Other notes that can be beneficial include tips on when the wine should be drunk, the region and history behind the wine, and who you bought it from. A good note to make also includes the amount paid for the bottle.

This can come in handy if you ever decide to sell the wine.

Laying Down Wine

Laying down wine, or storing it for long periods of time, can be beneficial for many fine wines while other, usually less expensive bottles are made for immediate consumption.

Many red wines, cheap or not, require at least a month of laying down to settle their sediments.

laying down wine bottles

Red wines that will benefit from longer aging include fine bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir.

Some of these varieties can age exceptionally well for decades. How long wines are kept for aging depends on several factors such as year, grapes, method of production and personal preference.

Wines do not usually spoil, but rather lose fruitiness while gaining complexity with aging. Tannic elements in red wines, for example, become softer.

White wines, in general, are not the best options for aging. However, some Rieslings and Chardonnays of exceptional quality have been known to do well over two or three decades.

High end Champagnes are also known for having good aging potential. If you are uncertain still about how long to age your wine, try purchasing more than one bottle and opening one after a few months or years. And use a wine decanter to see if any sediments are visible, or if the color is off.

Storing Wine

When storing your collection of beloved wines, temperature should always be the main concern. The main temperature to consider should remain between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Wine matures quicker at higher temperatures so to keep wine young, store your favorites below the 50 degree marker.

For a quick aging process that will not spoil your wine, anywhere up to 68 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.

The second most important consideration with storing wine involves the conditions of the storage.

Fluctuating conditions in temperature, light, and humidity can have detrimental effects to perfectly good bottles of wine. Lots of light can, for example, permeate easily through clear white wine bottles, while too much heat can dry out the corks and allow air to enter them. Humidity has damaging effects on labels while vibrations in the ground can shake up sediment which make a wine cloudy when serving.

When creating a storage space for wine, insulation is key. Consider a small closet in a quiet area of the home. Air conditioning is also key for storage in hotter climates. The bottles should be stored on their sides in order to keep the wine and the cork in contact.

Wine racks vary from inexpensive slotted styles that offer the option of expanding with your growing collection, to fully temperature controlled cabinets that hold hundreds of bottles. You can even use a smaller wine cooler for white wines.

Bin racks are usually special order but can hold up to 12 bottles each. Also, if no ideal spaces in your home will do, commercial cellar space can be rented in many large cities.

And of course, as your wine collection grows you should have the correct wine glasses for each type of wine. If you’re unsure which glass to use with which wines, check out our article on the differences between red and white wine glasses.

Starting a wine collection doesn’t have to be a major investment. Just start small. Find a wine you really love and buy a few bottles. Then in a month or two do the same. Over time you’ll accumulate more than you think. And when you start your wine collection slowly, you’ll have time to learn more about the wines your collecting. You could could even make a trip to their vineyards. Then you’ll have a story to share along with the bottle your pouring.