Collecting The Grape
How to build the perfect wine collection
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Tired of your wine collection consisting of a mishmash of bottles bought on sale and stored in the box you carted them home in?
Discouraged that when you scan the wine you have on hand, you realize you bought them because they have labels with cute animals? Intimidated by the many wines out there and your lack of knowledge about them?
Relax a little—in fact, relax with a glass of wine. While the wine world is tremendous and often very complicated, there is plenty of advice on the subject of assembling a wine collection you can maintain, grow and enjoy.
In some ways, the art, the joy, the fun in building a wine collection can be viewed as a course of study. Think of your freshman biology class—there’s the lecture class and then lab. But I’m confident you’ll find the lab classes on wine more entertaining.
“The first thing you have to consider is your budget,” says Mac McCarthy, owner of Frenchman’s Gulch Winery. While there are many ways to store wine and countless opinions on selecting wine, before you even take a sip or store a box you have to ask yourself: How much money can I afford to spend on this splendid venture? (Not how much money do you WANT to spend!)
Right now, a $15 (or less) bottle of wine for dinner at home may suit you just fine, but that may change as your collection and palate expands, McCarthy cautions. Your standard for a so-called every night wine could jump from $10 to $30, or more. You’re probably buying wine for the week or the month, no more than a case at a time, if that. But collecting means more buying, more money.
You may purchase two cases of one wine—some to drink this year, others to save in your storage unit. And as you drink your wine, you will be replacing it. All that equals $$$.
Collecting wine is like any guilty pleasure, the cost can easily get out of control. So, sit down and come up with a budget for establishing, maintaining and growing your wine collection.
You likely will have moments when you stray, but stick with it for the most part and you won’t be selling wine on the corner to pay your tab.
Where to put it?
A major piece of the expense can be storage.
I don’t recommend going all out as a beginning collector and building a wine cellar. Try a more modest approach, both in terms of scale and money.
There is plenty of advice out there on how to store wine but there seem to be three absolutes: keep your wine in a consistent cool temperature; keep wine away from direct sunlight; lay each bottle on its side so the wine touches the cork.
“A dark cool place is best for them,” says Guy Stout, a master sommelier and certified wine educator based in Houston, Texas. “And keep wines lying on their side to keep the cork moist.”
You can buy a temperature-controlled storage unit, they come in various sizes, including ones that can hold some 200 bottles. But a dark closet or cabinet also can work.
“In my house, I have a wine cellar that is off-limits unless we’re having a super special event,” says Stout. “Then I have two racks (in his dining room)—one that holds 12 bottles and one that holds eight bottles. That’s the grab it and drink it pile.’’
Another option is an off-site wine storage unit.
StoragePlus in Hailey has wine storage lockers for rent. Each 5-foot-by-5-foot unit has a temperature maintained at 55 degrees.
“We mainly have a lot of deliveries (to individual units). You can have it (wine) delivered directly here,” and the staff there will store it in your locker, says Mary Adams, StoragePlus’ manager. She says she currently has five people with wine storage units, which rent for $130 a month. >>>