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Q: How to start a cellar?

by David on January 21, 2007

Question from Charles: Hi there ive been wanting to collect wine for awhile now but not sure how to start. I don’t know that much about wine and i don’t have a lot of room to keep it for now i’am looking as this like an investment maybe resale or consume or a little of both but i dont have a celler they would be on racks out of the sun of course. The thing is I’m going to pull my hair out so any help please but just remember i’m new at this and a lot of dum right now.

Answer: Hi, Charles! Thanks for writing! This is quite a project you’re taking on!

First, let’s talk about storage conditions to ensure that your wine is in good shape down the road. As you probably know, your cellar is supposed to duplicate cave conditions so the ideal is darkness, a constant 55 degrees, very little motion and about 60-70% humidity. Cork-finished bottles should be stored sideways. Especially for resale, you need to store the wine properly. For your own purposes, you have a bit more leeway if you keep in mind that wide temperature fluctuations and light are extremely damaging. There’s more information in an article from our website which also offers general advice about aging whites, reds and dessert wines.

If you’re serious, you should think about building a cellar or investing in a wine refrigerator. You mentioned that you’re short on space and, in that case, you might look for a wine-storage company in your area.

You should buy wine that you like and also has good aging potential. Not knowing your tastes, there’s a vast world of wine out there and I suggest you find a top-notch retailer to help get you started.

Buying wine for investment purposes is a tricky business and will require research on your part. I found some excellent tips from folks who ought to know, Berry Bros. & Rudd. Or contact some “cult wine” producers and try to get on the mailing list. You will probably have to wait awhile. They say that a large percentage of these wines are purchased as an investment rather than for enjoyment. For instance, you purchase a bottle of Screaming Eagle for $500.00 direct from the winery and then flip it on a wine-auction site like winebid.com.

Some wineries sell what are called “futures.” It’s kind of the opposite of using your credit card. You make your purchase while the wine is still in barrels, presumably at a substantial discount, and pick it up later, when it’s finally released. Some California wineries do this; it’s more common in Bordeaux. You need to get on the mailing lists of the brands you want to invest in so you’ll know when they’re released and if they offer futures.

Most people with great cellars or who are successful as investors are tremendous enthusiasts who gain pleasure from following these things. Otherwise, as you can see, it’s just a lot of work! Good luck to you!

Cheers! Nancy

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