How To Start A Wine Collection

The below was produced for Lightfoot Travel in March 2017.

If your holiday souvenir tends to be a bottle of wine, maybe it’s time you start to collect? We asked James Hindle of leading Singapore retailer Pop Up Wine for his top tips on starting a wine collection.

Buy What You Love

Remember not everything you buy will gather dust. You’re sure to want to pop open a bottle or two on a special occasion. So only buy what you would be happy to drink. There’s no point having a case taking up valuable space if it’s doesn’t do anything for your tastebuds.

Start Small

You don’t need to have won the lottery to start collecting wine. You should be able to purchase an excellent bottle of wine that you can lay down for SGD$100 (for example, the superb Shiraz-Viognier from Clonakilla costs around $99).

Start your collection with a case of higher tannin red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah (Shiraz) or Nebbiolo.  Tannins are minute particles of a grape’s skin, seeds or of the barrel in which the wine has been aged.  They are the element in wine which can cause a glass of wine to taste dry.  Tannins are vitally important when aging wine, as they are a natural preservative, and – as they fade over many years – the primary fruit flavours in the wine should develop into something more complex.

Know What To Lay Down

Not every wine can be laid down. In fact, leading US wine expert, Kevin Zraly said that: “Ninety percent of all the wines are meant to be consumed within one year, and less than one percent of the world’s wines are meant to be aged for more than five years.”  Before aging a wine for 10, 15 or 25 years, consider whether the grape has aging potential, and whether the winemaking techniques employed lend themselves to aging.  Winemaker’s websites, and critic reviews, often include a suggested consumption window – these are a great place to start.

Do Your Research

Time spent on preparation is seldom wasted.  Before making a large purchase, research the winemaker, the wine region and the vintage carefully.  The more certain you are of each purchase, the better your collection will be.  The website www.wine-searcher.com is a superb resource for tasting notes, critic ratings and current prices.

old-wine-cellar

Keep Your Collection Cool

Wine will develop prematurely if it is stored in an environment that has large temperature variations, particularly if these occur frequently.  Most experts recommend long-term storage at between 10 and 15 °C.

Moderate humidity is also important.  If wine is stored in conditions that are too dry, corks may shrink and cause leakage. Too moist, and mould and contamination may occur.

Temperature controlled wine cellars or dedicated wine fridges are essential investments if you are considering collecting in an exotic, tropical location, such as Singapore.

Don’t Touch

It is always tempting to show friends favourite bottles that have been aging for a long period, but please try to keep particularly handsy-folks away from your bottles.  Wine ages best when it is stored flat, and kept still.

Do Your Paperwork

Make sure that you write an inventory for insurance in case of power failure or other unpleasantness. And hold on to all documentation. With wine fraud a growing problem, being able to prove provenance is becoming increasingly important also.  Try to keep your original sales receipt, a copy of the auction description, the business card of the person who sold the wine to you and any branded box or packaging that the wine may have come in.  The latter may increase the value of the wine when you come to sell it.  Additionally, write a detailed description of the bottle including any marks that make the particular bottle unique, and make a note of the conditions the wine was kept in prior to purchase, and during shipping (if applicable).

Buy On Your Travels

If you’re on holiday at a great vineyard, there’s nothing wrong with bringing home a bottle or two. Again, just do your research. Be aware that a strong vintage in Bordeaux, might be a poor one in Australia or even Burgundy.  Jancis Robinson’s website includes an excellent breakdown of each vintage, by country.

If you plan to ship it home you need to be aware that this can be tricky as you’re faced with fluctuating temperatures and around one to two percent in breakages. There are more expensive refrigerated shipping containers called “reefers”, although even these are vulnerable at the loading and unloading stages.

If you want to bring home just a case or less you could invest in a Vingarde Valise, which is a mini suitcase on wheels that is designed to hold 12 of your favourite vintages.

J., March 2017

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