Building the Ultimate Wine Collection

We all dream of having a wine library of our own - one day. But it is the how, when and where that deters us, right?

By: Sonal Holland, Divisional Head - Wine & Beverages for ITC Hotels, India

Posted on: February 17, 2014

We all dream of having a wine library of our own – one day. But it is the how, when and where that deters us, right?

There has never been a better time to be a wine collector. Quality today, is at an all-time high, and with significant technological progress, which allows for rectification at every stage of wine-making, most producers joyfully claim that nowadays it is virtually impossible to make bad quality wine.

Building an ultimate wine collection is about discovering wines and styles that you prefer, and then creating a cellar of wines that you want to share and enjoy today and in years to come. Then, of course, adding a few luxury wine bottles in this collection will act like the icing on the cake.

Going about it
It may be worthwhile to get some basic education about the different wines of the world; difference in styles between old world classics from Bordeaux, Spain and Italy, versus the premium new world styles from California, Australia and New Zealand. The former classic styles lean more towards savoury fruit profiles with more emphasis on structure (tannins and acidity), whereas the new world styles generally showcase sweeter fruit, in a richer opulent style. Wine dinners are regularly organized by five-star luxury hotels, such as the ITC Hotels, across cities. Signing up for these wine evenings is a good way to induct oneself into the wonderful world of wines.

Decide on a budget. Forty per cent of this budget should be spent on precious wine collectibles. Such wines also have a long ageing potential, and will provide for your drinking in later years. Typically, such wines will be from the classic regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone and perhaps premium California. The other 60 per cent of your budget could be to buy early to medium term drinking wines. Good Californian Cabernets, Argentinean Malbecs, Pinot Noirs from Oregon and New Zealand and Washington State Merlots are exciting finds in the value range. True collectors want to build depth, breadth and diversity to their wine assemblage. Try to include some Vintage Champagnes and prized sweet wines from Tokaji or Sauternes as well, to demonstrate breadth.

The price of a case of wine can sometimes be prohibitive for a new wine collector, ranging from a few hundreds to thousands of dollars in case of an investment-grade wine from Bordeaux such as Chateau Margaux. But such wines can be tried over the entire span of their life-time by opening one bottle at a time in different years.

Wine technology
Wines need to be stored at a cool and constant temperature; spikes and fluctuations will make them age pre-maturely. Storing the wine at 12-14 degrees Celsius will allow it to age and mature gracefully. Value-based, everyday drinking wines can be effectively stored in a wine cooler set at the right temperature. The more expensive wines, which are intended for long term ageing, require more professional storage conditions with the right temperature and humidity control. Five star luxury hotels invest in professional storage systems from Eurocave and Transtherm companies to ensure that their precious wine collections are in prime health when served to guests. Investment grade wines which are intended for trading and making profits are best stored either in London or Hong Kong, where a few professional companies such as London City Bond and Octavian specialise in super-professional wine storage.

Trophy wines are the crowning jewels of a wine collection. For some, having a couple of bottles of Chateau Cos d’Estournel, Sassicaia, Screaming Eagle also represents a snob value. But beware, they will gulp down a big portion of your budget; also they are hard to access. It may be best to buy these bottles during your winery visits to Bordeaux, Tuscany or Napa Valley. If you are keen to build an investment portfolio of wines, it is best to work with a professional wine merchant who will advise you on the right wine brands, best vintages, storage and provenance related issues to protect their future trading value.

It is important to remember that the true pleasure of wine isn’t in the collecting or investment, but in the joy of experiencing it. When you pour the first glass from your newly created collection, you will enjoy it with pride, because you have put the time and effort to find it and care for it!

A prolific wine commentator with an astute palate, Sonal Holland is India’s highest qualified wine professional. She is currently the Divisional Head - Wine & Beverages for ITC Hotels, India where she is responsible for creating a world-class wine program for the Group.

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