In 2014, at a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong, the world record was broken for the most expensive lot of wine ever sold. It was a collection of 114 bottles of Romanée-Conti -arguably the world’s most sought-after wine - and the sale totalled HK $12,556,250 (over a million pounds).
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 that whether for passion or profit, collecting wine 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
Be prepared: collecting wine is a pricey endeavour. Not only is the price of collectable wine generally high, 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 in a 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 and you don’t want those years of patience while your bottles age to result in a mouthful of vinegar.
Know where it came from
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.
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. We recommend Vincellar by Vinfolio or Cellar Tracker.
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 any of it or if it is faulty.
Store it 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! For more on exact storage conditions, refer to Jancis Robinson's excellent guide.
Buy the wines you want to drink
Like any other collectibles, 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.
There is a serious joy in drinking a wine at its peak time 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 ‘09 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.