Getting Started

Starting a wine collection
How do you start a wine collection? I am often asked this question and the simply reply is to buy more than you intend to drink. There that was easy but before I add the caveats let me take a look at the original question and ask one of my own. Why do you want to collect wine? If, like stamps, you only want to see them preserved and collect for the sake of collecting your sources can be various and inexpensive because you never intend to drink any of them.
Few, if any, fall into this category so you need to choose wines that will keep and hopefully improve. Generally the wines in supermarkets are designed for early drinking and have a maximum life of five years. By the way don’t be fooled into thinking that geography makes any difference so a Tesco in Stafford or a hypermarket in Calais both sell the same type of thing. You will need to befriend a good wine broker or merchant. Look around carefully because selecting the correct wine advisor is hopefully a lifetimes’ commitment, far more important than just marriage. This is the person to help and guide your wine choices and predict the evolution of infant wines over maybe ten, twenty or thirty years.
Where will you store your wine? Avoid temperature fluctuation, vibration, heat, light and excessive damp. Ideally a nice dry cellar would be perfect but nowadays so rare. If you have an unheated room or adjoining garage on the north side of the house, you have the closest thing to a cellar already. Just beware of very hot summers or freezing winters.
There are professional storage areas around and your wine advisor can help here, I use Octavian in Wiltshire. This is an ex mine and wartime munitions dump far underground where my wines are preserved in perfect condition. The typical cost for this is around ten pounds per case per year so it needs to be pretty valuable in the first place to justify the expense. The reason I use this establishment is that I collect wine with a view to sell at a profit in years to come. If you want to follow suit you will need to buy wine under bond by the case and choose younger wines from good vintages that have the capacity and expectancy to improve. As a rule Bordeaux red from top classified growths are the best avenue but unfortunately they are never cheap, even when first released. A single case may fetch between one and three thousand pounds depending on the chateau and year.
Over a decade you should expect an increase of about four hundred percent if you bought wisely, so this covers all your expenses.
Typically a wine broker like me will ask why you want to buy wines as wines intended for consumption will be a lot cheaper than those bought expressly for investment. He will also ask how long you wish to hold the wines as different choices can be made according to the period chosen and five years would be the bare minimum, I always suggest ten to be more confident of really healthy returns, historically £400 - 600% per decade. It should also be noted that past returns are no guarantee of future profits but I have been selling wines for thirty years and have yet to see any failures in the system.
The golden rule is to take good guidance, but top wines from good vintages with the intention to keep them for ten or more years.