Storing your wine collection? good or bad?

If you speak to wine professionals who provide wine storage facilities or assist in building cellars, they will tell you that a great many mistakes are made along the way to building a dream wine collection. The good news is that, unlike doctors who have to bury their mistakes, those of wine lovers can be drunk – or at the very worst, poured down the sink. However, this can become expensive, so do be careful.

Surprisingly, the experts will tell you that it is often those with the deepest pockets that make the most errors of judgment. They can take a scattergun approach to filling the cellar, tossing a wallet at every offer so as to corner as many of the best wines as they can. Unfortunately, they often also dredge up a lot of crap wines on the way. Those who take greater care however, often have more interesting cellars.

So the million-dollar question is: what do you put in your cellar?

Deciding if you are a collector or an investor is key. Investors usually have an entirely different agenda, and some may not even like wine. Collectors, on the other hand, are the real wine lovers, although they may make the occasional purchase for investment purposes. Buying two cases and later selling one allows for future expansion, and if done astutely, can even finance the cellar.

Bordeaux has underpinned the secondary market in wine for decades but not every Bordeaux is the same. First Growths and wines known as Super Seconds, along with the best from the Right Bank, such as Cheval Blanc, Petrus and Ausone are as close to blue chip as is possible, and a good vintage is vital.

In recent years, the pronouncements of American critic Robert Parker have had a profound influence on this market. A good score from him can propel an unknown into 'blue chip' territory, or send well-known wines into the pricing stratosphere.

Outside of France, things are more hit and miss. Spain has many exciting wines developing, but Vega Sicilia and Pingus are probably the most reliable investments for the moment. Vintage port has seen somewhat of a recent revival. German wines is rarely a fruitful investment, and Italian wines are mixed. Super Tuscans, like Sassicaia, Ornellaia and Masseto have done very well (the 1985 Sassicaia has been one of the great wine investments of all time), and the best Barolos are starting to see the sort of return that such great wines deserve.

From Australia, Penfolds Grange and Henschke's Hill of Grace are the leading performers, but the next generation is making strides. Some of the boutique producers from the Barossa and McLaren Vale with their turbo-charged shiraz have been given a boost by Parker points.

New Zealand has yet to establish such iconic auction performers, though some of the pinots from Martinborough and Central Otago, like Dry River, Ata Rangi and Felton Road, are close. From the United States, the auction performance of such wineries as Screaming Eagle, Araujo, Phelps 'Insignia', Opus One, Heitz 'Martha's Vineyard' and Harlan Estate is legendary and not completely unrelated to positive reviews from Parker and Wine Spectator.

Serious wine lovers soon learn that there is little point in collecting wines unless they are properly stored. High or fluctuating temperatures, light and vibration can all adversely affect wine. So can humidity: too dry an environment is detrimental as it can dry out corks, which allows for the ingress of oxygen and thus spoils the wine. Too much humidity, on the other hand, promotes the growth of bacteria and mold around the cork, which isn't very esthetically pleasing. However, the increased use of screw caps makes humidity less of an issue.

 A cellar can be anything from a box under the bed to a massive underground, temperature- and humidity-controlled facility. If you do not have a proper cellar at home, consider storing your wine with professionals. It has the disadvantage that late at night, you cannot grab a favored bottle on a whim (next morning, some may consider that as a positive), but at least you can be assured the wine will be in ideal condition when you do decide to drink it.

Remember do enjoy your wines in proper wine glasses such as Riedel.

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