How to Start a Wine Cellar
(WSJ) - IF YOU ENJOY WINE, are starting to take more than a passing interest and have perhaps bought the odd reference book about vino varieties, it might be time to think about beginning your very own wine cellar.
The worst habit you can get into is to stop off at your local wine shop once a week and pick up the odd few bottles. A much better approach is to buy by the dozen or a six pack, as most wine merchants will offer a discount on a mixed case. Better still is to select two or three wine merchants, order their catalogs or look online and, when you're in the mood, spend some time selecting your favorite wines and comparing prices. I like to do this on the weekend, with a cup of tea and all the catalogs spread out over the kitchen table.
But a cellar isn't just a few cases of your favorite wine. It may sound like a cliché but a good cellar requires a bit of forethought and planning to provide pleasurable drinking over the long term. I like to break wine collecting into three categories: wines for immediate drinking, wines to lay down that will improve with age, and investment wines—those special bottles whose value will steadily increase year on year.
I started my own cellar soon after I left university and began working in the wine trade. I well remember buying a case of northern Rhône Syrah to lay down—I still have four bottles—and six bottles of a well-known New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc producer. I now buy most of my wine twice a year: during the bin end sales at the beginning of the year, when merchants are unloading old stock at discounted prices, and when a wine is offered En Primeur (wine futures). This is where the wine is put up for sale from the barrel, months before it is bottled and shipped. The advantages are that you can guarantee an allocation of your chosen wine, you can choose the size of the bottle it is shipped in and also secure it at a discounted price. However, the latter isn't always guaranteed—Bordeaux 2010 being a case in point. Many of the wines are cheaper now than when they were when released En Primeur.
The common practice was always to buy three cases of your favorite wine. As the wine went up in value, one case could be sold, the profit of which would pay for the other two. Now wine investment isn't as simple and it's worth consulting an established, trusted wine merchant before buying wine to lay down. The golden rule is that investment wine should never be delivered to your home cellar; it should lay in professional storage, as provenance and storage history are crucial in retaining resale value.