YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE WEALTHY TO COLLECT WINE
Ramonet Montrachet Vertical, 1978-1999 DB; 22 bottles; sold: $14,100. Photo courtesy of Sotheby's
One of the good things about writing a column is I get to confront my prejudices about collecting certain things. The one in my glass right now, so to speak, is wine collecting.
I always figured this was a hobby tailor-made for the gentry. People with too much time and too much money on their hands. You have to admit, the idea of saving something to drink for 10-15 years seems a bit odd in our “I want it now” culture.
I was wrong. There’s a bigger picture here. Wine collecting isn’t necessarily about spending thousands on top red Burgundy. And it isn’t necessarily about castles in France with wine cellars big enough to house a dinosaur.
It’s about subtle distinctions. The same distinctions you make in choosing 19th century Chinese porcelain over contemporary cookie jars. (It could be the other way around for that matter.)
Except, you can’t drink your porcelain or cookie jars. In wine collecting, you get to consume your passion instead of having it consume you. With a little money and a little interest, any wine lover can play the game.
One of the first rules in collecting “anything” is buy what you like. The same holds true for wine. The world would be pretty boring if everyone ended up with the same things.
I’ve heard collectors say if you find wine you like, buy three bottles. One to drink now, and two to save for later. The variety is endless.
Like reptiles, wines like to be stored in cool places. If you’re serious, start a cellar. If a cellar seems like too big a leap, then consider a wine fridge. Even a dark corner in the basement will work.
I’ve been told you don’t need to worry too much about wine storage for fewer than three years provided you avoid light and extreme and fast temperature changes.
Think of wine collecting as a lesson in patience. “Almost any red wine will become smoother, subtler, and more complex with time,” said Jeff Morgan, author of Dean & Deluca: The Food and Wine Cookbook. It’s kind of like people.
The good news is you become a connoisseur by tasting lots of wine. Notice I said tasting, not guzzling. That doesn’t sound so bad to me.
When I was a college student, I lived next door to a professor who taught wine tasting for the university at night. When he was feeling generous, he would invite us over to sample leftovers.
At that stage in my life as I scraped money together with my roommates to buy wine, I operated under the principle that the best wine was the cheapest. I wish I lived next door to him now. I’d be awake.
Let’s just leave the subject by saying that this old dog is open to learning a few new tricks.
On Sept. 13-14, Sotheby’s, New York, together with Aulden Cellars featured an auction of fine and rare wines. Here are some current values.
Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1998 ES; Robert Mondavi, Napa; 12 bottles; $764.
Chateau Haut Brion, Blanc 1989 CB; 8 bottles; $3,819.
Chateau Pichon Longueville, Lalande 1978 CB; 8 bottles; $9,694.
Corton Charlemagne 1999 DB, Coche-Sury; 12 bottles; $14,100.
Ramonet Montrachet Vertical, 1978-1999; 22 bottles; $14,100.
Chateau Petrus 1961 CB; 6 bottles; $32,900.
Chateau Latour A Pomerol 1961 CB; 10 bottles; $54,050.
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