The world of wine is a huge place—it’s called the world of wine for a reason—but that doesn’t mean you need to be overwhelmed with the prospect of starting a collection.
Assembling a mouthwatering collection is an exciting, personal adventure and one that is delicious every single day. Stocking (and depleting) our fridges is always a joy, and a look into our friends’ collections continuously reveals hints about their personalities and passions. Over time, your cellar can be just as eye-opening—and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune either.
We dove into our Wine Team’s stash to discover the secrets to savvy collecting—the ones that will ensure you always have the perfect bottle on hand for impromptu celebrations, and ones to cherish for years to come.
Tip 1: Collect Broadly
The most famous regions are well-known and respected for a reason; Bordeaux’s Médoc and the best villages of Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits are benchmarks, of course, but there are also other sources of great wine that are worth your attention and money. Remain open to those wines—feather-weight Italian reds like Barolo and the mineral, structured Syrahs from the Northern Rhône come to mind—and snap them up when you see them.
The same goes for white wines: The Chardonnays of Montrachet and Rieslings from Austria can be deliriously delicious and are often incredibly long-lived, but they don’t represent the end-all-be-all of collectible whites. Expressive, aromatic Semillon from Australia, effusive and unctuous Pinot Gris from Alsace, crisp and concentrated Grüner Veltliner from Austria’s Wachau region, and more will round out a collection beautifully.
2018 Le Grand Bouqueteau Chinon Tradition Loire Valley France
2014 Meyer Family Cellars Syrah Yorkville Highlands Mendocino County
2018 Brokenwood Wines Semillon Hunter Valley Australia
2014 Trimbach Reserve Pinot Gris Alsace
Tip 2: Look outside of Classic Regions for Value Cabernet
Don’t ignore Napa—please don’t do that!—as it’s home to some of the best, most overtly delicious reds in the world, but make sure to branch out to other regions, as well.
Think Sonoma, Paso Robles, and Mendocino, among others domestically, and places like the Coonawarra in Australia, Washington State, South Africa’s Western Cape, and more internationally. When it’s grown in the right place and vinified with care and attention, Cabernet Sauvignon possesses all of the ingredients necessary for a long, leisurely evolution in the cellar: A balance between assertive tannins and fresh acidity, concentration that doesn’t devolve into jamminess, and a expressive fruit character that finds its counterpoint in the cedar-, tobacco-, and balsamic-driven notes that tend to emerge with age. The wine world is gloriously big; the savviest collectors are open to it all.
Tip 3: Don’t Assume Price Equals Quality
Great wine rings in at a broad range of price points, and while there are certainly plenty of them out there that are worth dropping a car payment on, that doesn’t mean that more affordable bottles are in any way inferior. Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Sagrantino, though hard to pronounce, from a good vintage has the ability to age for well over a decade, and it’s typically priced low enough to make it possible to purchase half a case without giving it a second thought—under $30 a bottle is more or less standard.
The same goes for the world-class Pinot Noirs of Oregon’s Willamette Valley—many can be found for well under $100 per bottle, and deliver twice that amount in pleasure and potential evolution. It really all depends what your personal budget is, what you value in a wine (fruit-driven flavors vs. earthier ones, longevity vs. freshness, and more), and how much you want to spend.
Great collections come in all styles and sizes; just because you don’t have display racks of Pétrus and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti doesn’t mean your collection isn’t thoughtful and worthy of pride.
Tip 4: Be Ready for Any Wine Emergency
Maybe you’re having an impromptu dinner party and need a handful of rich reds to open up alongside the braised short ribs. Or it’s a Monday night and your partner or roommate just called to say they’ll be home with fried chicken from your favorite local spot and you have only 45 minutes to figure out which Champagne to chill (and trust us here: Champagne with fried chicken is one of the great pairings you can experience). Maybe the boss invited you out to that new BYOB restaurant and you want to bring something to really impress her. A savvy collector will have options.
So buy broadly, across the continuum of price points, and include wines that not only require short- to medium-term aging, but also some that you can put away and forget about for a decade—until they’ve gone through that alchemy that great mature wine does—and emerged from their slumber as a wholly new and thoroughly transfixing treat. Keep a bottle of Champagne Brugnon and another of Champagne Palmer Brut Rose on hand—both are great now and will age gracefully for several years. Have a bottle of Halpin Cabernet, Penner-Ash Pinot Noir and a few different bottles of Beaujolais Crus (Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent, Chiroubles, etc.) on hand, just in case.
Because you never know when a wine emergency will strike, and you should always have a bottle or three ready for it…no matter what the situation calls for.
2016 Vermillion Red Wine Blend California
2016 Foxen Winery Block 43 Bien Nacido Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley
2016 Schramsberg Vineyards Blanc de Blancs Brut North Coast California
2018 Color & Sound Pinot Noir Rosé Los Carneros Napa Valley
Tip 5: Famous Names are Great, but Wines are not Kardashians
Sure, we’d all love a cellar full of First Growths, Napa cult Cabernets, and verticals of Penfolds Grange. Who wouldn’t? But even with collectors for whom money is no object, the best cellars are stuffed with a range of producers that reflect the ever-shifting world of new appellations, unexpected grape varieties, and visionary producers. The key is to keep an open mind, and to taste as broadly as possible. Haven’t checked out the astounding Cabernets from Moss Wood in Margaret River, the most remote wine region in the world (it’s a three-hour drive from Perth)? Or the incredibly expressive sparkling wines of Italy’s Franciacorta? Seek them out!
Passionate cinephiles don’t spend their days watching and re-watching Citizen Kane and The Godfather on repeat; music lovers keep more than Beethoven’s Ninth and Bach’s Goldberg Variations on rotation. The savviest wine collectors pop corks from bottles at a range of price points, in a whole host of styles crafted from grape varieties that may or may not be all that well-known, and from producers famous and less so from around the world.
2017 Domaine Pascal Prunier-Bonheur Monthelie Rouge
2015 Clos de L’Oratoire Saint Emilion Grand
2017 Favia Carbone Red Wine Napa Valley
2017 E. Guigal Condrieu La Doriane
Takachiyo 59 Chapter 6 Miyamanishiki Junmai Ginjo Nama Niigata