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Top tips for starting a fine wine cellar

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Starting a fine wine cellar might seem like a daunting prospect. If you're struggling to know where to begin, we've set out some useful tips to help you side-step some of the most common pitfalls

In 2014, the world record was broken for the most expensive lot of wine ever sold at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong. A collection of 114 bottles of Romanée-Conti – arguably the world’s most sought-after wine – sold for HK $12,556,250 (over £1 million).

While not all wine cellars become collector fairy tales like this one, almost anyone who deals in the buying and selling of fine wine will tell you collecting wine – for passion or profit – is an exciting hobby.

So, whether you’re a budding wine collector or looking to clean up your current reserves, here are some FINE+RARE top tips to starting and managing your own cellar:

Be prepared for the expense

Collecting fine wine is a pricey endeavour. Not only is the price of collectable wine generally high, but you will also need to invest in a proper storage area, an inventory management system or subscription, insurance and security. Our advice is to design a budget to prevent any nasty surprises.

Know what you’re buying

If you’re not up to speed on the qualities of fine wine that make it age-worthy, take the time to educate yourself or find a reliable source. Sometimes the recommended cellaring time on the label (or in reviews) can be overestimated – you don’t want those years of patience while your bottles age to result in a mouthful of vinegar.

Know where it came from

The provenance of your bottles is important because it can largely determine the quality. For example, if your wine has been stored incorrectly, i.e. sitting upright in a display window of a shop, it will probably not taste its best and may not be fit to age any longer.

Inventory is key

Keep track of your wine collection by storing your inventory in a cellar management system. This is easiest if you start with your first bottle and continue with every purchase. There are online subscription services that are great for keeping track of all your vintages with notes, scores, market value, etc. This is also handy because you can set up alerts for the proper drinking windows for your wines so you don’t forget what you have.

Keep your documentation

Keep your original receipt, the card of the person who sold it to you, the auction catalogue you bought it from and basically any relevant information regarding the purchase of your wine. You will need these things if you plan to re-sell or if it is faulty.

Store your fine wine properly

Wine is finicky, it likes to be stored in a cool and humid environment, without temperature fluctuations, light or heat. Therefore, the ideal place for your wine is a nice dark and dank room in your basement. Bottles should be lying down, not standing upright. Original boxes can be used to keep your wine tucked away undisturbed and this is also ideal for re-sale.

Wine – especially old wine – doesn’t like to be handled either. Tempting as it is to show off special bottles by passing them around, it is far better to leave them safely alone. You’ll be rewarded for your discipline later on. 

Buy the wines you want to drink

Like any other collectables, wine value is largely dictated by trends. Though these can lead to some great discoveries, the reality is that your collection will go up and down in value depending on timing. The only foolproof way of safeguarding yourself from disappointment is to buy the wines you truly want to drink.

Patience, patience, patience

There is a serious joy in drinking wine at its peak but this will require patience and discipline on your part. There will be nights when your friends are over, you’ve had a few glasses and they will egg you on to open that enticing bottle of 2009 Bordeaux in the corner of your cellar. Be strong, it will be worth the wait.

If you are interested in starting a wine cellar and need some guidance, please do get in touch. We have a team of wine industry experts who are brimming with good advice on everything from selection to storage.

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