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Desert Companion

Drink up: Oh yes you decant


You love drinking it,  so why not collect it? Budding wine-lovers, take note

You dip the tip of your nose just inside the rim of your glass. Mm… a slight whiff of pomegranate shot through lush notes of cocoa. No doubt about it; you’ve fallen in love with wine.

Nothing would make you happier than having your own collection to dote on and show off. Trouble is, you have no idea how to go about it. Take heart, budding oenophile. Starting a wine collection is not as hard as you think.


Crunch the numbers
How much do you want to spend? You don’t need an enormous amount of expendable income to start a wine collection; you just need to know how much you’ve got to play with.

Tim Wilson, director of beverage for the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, suggests asking yourself, “What’s my goal? Is it for investment purposes or personal consumption?” This will help you budget.

Say you can afford to invest $50 a week in wine — that’s $200 a month, $2,400 a year. When you start to identify the wines you want to buy, you may find some great bottles for $25; you can get two of those a week. Or, you may find a bottle you really want for $200. You can only get one of those a month.

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And, although investment-quality wines will come with a price tag, beginning collectors need not limit themselves to bottles that fetch a week’s salary, says Chris Hammond, founder of Rock & Roll Wine Guys.

“The most obvious beginner pitfall is judging a wine’s quality by its price,” he says. “You can have some fabulous wines at around $20 a bottle.”

Extra credit: Track your investment. Record what you bought, when, and how much you paid for it. It will help you valuate your stock should you ever decide to insure it, or re-sell some of it.


Drink — a lot

You don’t know what to collect until you know what you like, and you don’t know what you like until you’ve tasted it.

“Don’t limit yourself,” Hammond says. “The more you taste, the more refined your palate will be, and the broader your range will become.”

Beginners beware: Your tastes will change. Don’t buy $1,000 worth of a wine that’s best aged for a while unless you are prepared to sell half of it a few years down the road — when you will have moved on to another favorite.

“As you start to taste more wines, you’ll be surprised how much less the wines you used to like will mean to you later. You understand how expensive they are,” Wilson says.

The good news is that wines can be resold, if they’re good to begin with and stored well.

Extra credit: Go to the source. There are plenty of wineries within driving distance or a short flight. Tasting wine in a store or at a club is one thing, but tasting it in its native environment creates an emotional collection and deeper knowledge.

Chill out

Good storage is non-negotiable. In the ideal world, every collector would have a cool, dry wine cellar. But considering the dearth of new-home construction in Southern Nevada, most of us will have to settle for a wine refrigerator for now.

“You need to have conditions that are 55 degrees with 70 percent humidity,” says Wilson. “That’s the most important thing. Without that, it’s pointless. You’re wasting your money.”

Suck up

Get to know your vendor, says William Sherer, master sommelier at Aureole.

“A hit list of them would be Marché Bacchus, Khoury’s, Green Valley Wine & Cheese, Lee’s Discount Liquor and Total Wine and More,” he says.

Particularly in the current market, this relationship is key to collecting. In the recession, Sherer explains, both distributors and retailers have stopped stocking any inventory that they are not sure to sell, so you will not be able to get your hands on anything special if you don’t have access to the back of the house or get notifications of good wines coming in so you can pre-order them.


Keep on learning

So, you’ve got your fridge, you’re attending tastings, cultivating your palate, spending $200 a month on wine. Look at you: You’re an expert!

Not so fast, Eddie Osterland. The more you learn, the more you should realize how little you know. Read up, join clubs, have conversations – whatever it takes to keep improving your knowledge. It can only refine your palate, which enhances your investment.

“I’m not a huge fan of just going by scores of any wine media, but I am a big fan of the articles and references that wine media does, especially Wine Spectator,” Sherer says. “They give good references about what makes a particular wine tick.”

Extra credit: Read “Great Wine Made Simple,” by master sommelier Andrea Immer.


Know when to hold ’em

As the definition of collecting suggests, you have to buy more than you drink. Whatever you budget for your collection, it should be on top of what you’re already spending on wine for regular consumption.

Sherer recommends collecting in threes. “One bottle to try within the year, one to give away as a gift or save for a special occasion, and one bottle to taste later, when it’s aged.”

However, Hammond believes there is no reason to collect if you don’t allow yourself to enjoy a good bottle from time to time.

“The key component to a good wine cellar is a mix of stuff that’s inexpensive, that you can pop open on a Tuesday night, and other stuff that’s a little more expensive that you’re saving to have for a special occasion,” he says. 


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