Starting a cellar

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Chris T.
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Starting a cellar

#1 Post by Chris T. » February 5th, 2018, 5:25 pm

Hi All,

I’m new to this gig so bare with me.

I have about a 6-7 case collection of varying treasures I’ve found through my travels and through clubs/lists. Really only for around 18 months have I started collecting.

What I’m finding is that I’m dipping into wines that would be better off laying down for 5-10 years early because I want to drink delicious stuff!

How did you all go from a couple case collection to 50-100 cases whereby you now can drink your wine when it’s had some time rather than grabbing it too early?

Basically, when you didn’t have your collection of wine ready to drink, what was it you were drinking???
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#2 Post by Steve Slatcher » February 6th, 2018, 12:04 am

1) I drank wine that can be enjoyed young

2) I drank wine that was old when purchased. Not easy, but it is a question of taking opportunities when you see them. For me it was mainky merchants selling wines purchased from old privately-owned cellars they had cleared out - usually cheaper wines past their best, but still interesting and goid to drink. Also over-stocked wine from other winelovers. Older wine is also auctioned in tge UK.

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#3 Post by Joe B » February 6th, 2018, 5:32 am

Its been hard for me at the beginning but as you keep buying over time eventually you will build up so that you are not drinking those wines that require some bit of time before drinking. Buy in two, or threes and drink one early but hold off on the others.
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Chris T.
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#4 Post by Chris T. » February 6th, 2018, 7:11 am

Yea I think that’s what I need to start doing. Also - i know the answer is more of a personal financial situation, but I find myself wondering how people afford to buy all of this wine. Do a lot of people buy mailing list allocation and flip for profit and keep what they made a profit on? I probably spend between 5-7k per year on wine and still can’t figure it out. Maybe that amount is too little?
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Kevin Porter
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#5 Post by Kevin Porter » February 8th, 2018, 7:54 am

Putting money aside, the biggest challenge is that one wants to start collecting ASAP so that he/she will sooner have mature bottles but one's palate is very likely to change over time. There are hundreds of stories - mine among them - of collectors who wish they had focused on very different regions and varieties.

The best advice is to taste widely and collect classics (at least you can sell them!). If you do what I did you'll end up with lots of Chateauneuf du Pape and CA Pinot when you want to drink Burgundy, Riesling, and Nebbiolo!

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#6 Post by Chris T. » February 13th, 2018, 6:49 am

This makes a lot of sense. When people are referring to classics I am assuming you mean the cult cali wines, first growths, burgandies, and ageless barolos etc.

The problem with that means I can't drink any of my good stuff until 10 or so years from now. Have people had good experiences buying older vintages from winebid and other auction sites?
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#7 Post by Ian Sutton » February 13th, 2018, 11:35 am

Hi Chris
Welcome, and your's is a problem many of us experienced.

FWIW I think you've been sensible in keeping the cellar size down at that level, so you could consider those bottles drunk early as useful nonetheless in helping guide your later purchases. Better to have drunk 50 bottles too young, than have a cellar of 500 bottles, of wines you don't really like.

Still back to the question. We may sometimes refer to 'cellar defenders': those bottles we look to grab before others that really should have a decade or two in the cellar. What sort of wines are those?
- Lighter versions in an otherwise similar style (e.g. Langhe Nebbiolo to defend the Barolo, Rioja Crianza to defend the Gran Reservas, etc.)
- Mature or semi mature wines bought from retail, auction or maybe from such wines advertised for trade amongst wine lovers here
- Approachable wines that aren't really a substitute for the grander wines, but something distinctive in their own right and that are enjoyable to drink on release

Hopefully some of these will defend the wines that really need to sleep, but it's not that unusual to find there's often an excuse to open something fancy a little too young. With some wine styles this is more of a problem than others, so get a feel for this and grab those that may be more forgiving.

Regards
Ian

p.s. as for budgets, I'm sure mine is less than many here, and in the early days I was a fan of wines that cellared well, but weren't all that expensive or sought after, e.g. Cahors, Tahbilk Marsanne, Houghton HWB. Interestingly I've recently rediscovered my love for Cahors, and in the right setting is every bit as appealing / appetising as much grander wines.
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#8 Post by Ian H » February 13th, 2018, 5:33 pm

Hi Chris,

I'm in a somewhat similar situation to you so take this with a grain of salt but thought I'd share my experience. I've got a cellar that is about one year old with room for 500 bottles that's only about 35% full. Recognizing tastes may change over time and also the fact that I really like just visiting different wine shops, seeing what's on offer and picking up the odd bottle or two, I'm in no hurry to fill it up, as filling it up slowly is a big part of the fun for me. That said, I'll probably fill that sucker up in the next 12-24 months at the pace I'm on and then hello offsite!

For stuff I don't want to be tempted to drink too soon, I have an everyday drinker wine fridge up in my kitchen with room for ~50 bottles. The turnover in that thing is pretty high - if I visit a shop and pick up 2 treasures for the cellar I'll also come home with 4-5 bottles for the everyday tank.

I'm not really buying cases but instead 1-3 bottles of things I know I love now, that generally pair well with how I tend to eat (for example Pinot, both Burgs and Oregon for salmon, chicken and duck, off-dry German Riesling for thai, chinese or sushi, Bordeaux and some Cab for steak or lamb, bit of Barolo and Brunello for certain Italian dishes). Of course I can and do enjoy wine without food but I'd say for me discovering pairings, whether successes or failures, is lots of fun.

So basically if I needed to fill my cellar up 100% right now it would probably be 50% Pinot, 20% Riesling and the balance split between the others, but I want to leave room for evolving palates and new discoveries.

To the question about needing the time for stuff you like to get into the right drinking window, I think it's a function of wallet, how big your cellar is and access to good shops that stock vintage stuff or willingness to buy old stuff at auction. My cellar is not really big enough for massive flexibility for aging (though guess depends on how quickly or not I pull bottles), so I've been experimenting with auctions. Jury still out on that one. Not sure where you live but in my area there are good shops to visit (e.g. Chambers Street, Morrell, etc.) that have some older gems which is another source for an instant gratification cellar of mature drinkable wines.
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#9 Post by CWhite » February 13th, 2018, 5:40 pm

Thanks Ian! I love the idea of picking up a bottle for the collection when you purchase your every day wines. That has to help reduce the temptation.

Christina

Chris T.
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#10 Post by Chris T. » February 14th, 2018, 7:30 am

Ian Sutton wrote:Hi Chris
Welcome, and your's is a problem many of us experienced.

FWIW I think you've been sensible in keeping the cellar size down at that level, so you could consider those bottles drunk early as useful nonetheless in helping guide your later purchases. Better to have drunk 50 bottles too young, than have a cellar of 500 bottles, of wines you don't really like.

Still back to the question. We may sometimes refer to 'cellar defenders': those bottles we look to grab before others that really should have a decade or two in the cellar. What sort of wines are those?
- Lighter versions in an otherwise similar style (e.g. Langhe Nebbiolo to defend the Barolo, Rioja Crianza to defend the Gran Reservas, etc.)
- Mature or semi mature wines bought from retail, auction or maybe from such wines advertised for trade amongst wine lovers here
- Approachable wines that aren't really a substitute for the grander wines, but something distinctive in their own right and that are enjoyable to drink on release

Hopefully some of these will defend the wines that really need to sleep, but it's not that unusual to find there's often an excuse to open something fancy a little too young. With some wine styles this is more of a problem than others, so get a feel for this and grab those that may be more forgiving.

Regards
Ian

p.s. as for budgets, I'm sure mine is less than many here, and in the early days I was a fan of wines that cellared well, but weren't all that expensive or sought after, e.g. Cahors, Tahbilk Marsanne, Houghton HWB. Interestingly I've recently rediscovered my love for Cahors, and in the right setting is every bit as appealing / appetising as much grander wines.
I really like this idea of defense. Makes so much sense. Thanks for the insight!
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#11 Post by Bdklein » February 17th, 2018, 4:29 pm

Chris T. wrote:Hi All,

I’m new to this gig so bare with me.

I have about a 6-7 case collection of varying treasures I’ve found through my travels and through clubs/lists. Really only for around 18 months have I started collecting.

What I’m finding is that I’m dipping into wines that would be better off laying down for 5-10 years early because I want to drink delicious stuff!

How did you all go from a couple case collection to 50-100 cases whereby you now can drink your wine when it’s had some time rather than grabbing it too early?

Basically, when you didn’t have your collection of wine ready to drink, what was it you were drinking???
Beer, and the proper spelling of the phrase is "bear with me". Welcome to WB!!!
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#12 Post by Siun o'Connell » February 17th, 2018, 4:40 pm

I'm not a serious collector in the way so many here are but have about 200 bottles these days with most in the $30-50 range and a few gems around $100. What I've found is that collecting is about slowly learning what I enjoy as I taste more and more. I now have a mix that I feel quite good about and that I try to maintain while making small new additions through experiments (getting into some small production pet-nats for example). I am not drinking or collecting what I thought I would be when I began a few years ago - at all! So along with all the good advice folks are offering, I'd suggest investing time into just exploring rather than chasing trophies or a preplanned "collection."

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#13 Post by Chris T. » February 18th, 2018, 8:35 am

Siun o'Connell wrote:I'm not a serious collector in the way so many here are but have about 200 bottles these days with most in the $30-50 range and a few gems around $100. What I've found is that collecting is about slowly learning what I enjoy as I taste more and more. I now have a mix that I feel quite good about and that I try to maintain while making small new additions through experiments (getting into some small production pet-nats for example). I am not drinking or collecting what I thought I would be when I began a few years ago - at all! So along with all the good advice folks are offering, I'd suggest investing time into just exploring rather than chasing trophies or a preplanned "collection."
This is helpful thanks. Where did you start off collecting and where are you now?
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#14 Post by Siun o'Connell » February 18th, 2018, 7:28 pm

Chris T. wrote:This is helpful thanks. Where did you start off collecting and where are you now?
Until I started reading here six years ago, I had a few bottles around, mostly drank semi-dry Riesling and didn't really know anything. Expected to always be a white wine drinker ... never expected to order from vineyards and have so many bottles! Had never heard of mourvedre - my now favorite grape -and had stopped drinking any bubbly.

Someone from a food discussion board pointed me to the Kurniawan discussion here as interesting and then I started paying attention and picking up a few bottles here and there based on tasting notes or comments from winemakers. I hopped onto a few lists that lined up with commenters whose tastes seemed interesting ... I'm a bit fascinated by less common grapes, don't have the budget or really the desire to get into heavy investment wines and find the experimenting fun.

These days I'm a big fan of Dirty&Rowdy - everything but already missing the sparkling!, Tercero everything, Once & Future Zin, Patricia Green, Andrew Morris' Gewurtztraminer, Paetra Riesling, EMH Black Cat as a treat ... as you can see, very heavy on winemakers who participate a lot here. I like the connection to the maker just as I love living a block from a super farmers market - but I also just really **enjoy** drinking all of these. They match my own taste so well. There are many others on my shelves but those are the ones I keep wanting to drink and keep buying in small batches. My friends enjoy them too.

It's been immense fun -- and I can't wait to see what I taste next.

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#15 Post by Lee B e c k e t t » March 11th, 2018, 9:41 am

I would recommend tracking your purchases versus consumption over time as well. I didn’t do this the first few years and only later realized I was buying what I thought I liked rather than what I was actually drinking. When 30% of your cellar is only 10% of your consumption, it’s time to change your buying habits (and have a cellar thining party).

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#16 Post by M a t t W e i n s t e i n » March 11th, 2018, 10:28 am

Chris T, I’m you, 3-4 years from now. I also started out with a small cellar of a few cases, many acquired from travel in California, Italy, etc. or bought shortly after based on tasting them there. Once I finally had a good and secure space for a bigger cellar, I built room for about 500 bottles, and it was off to the races. Now I have about 20 cases with 10-20 year lives and another 10 cases or so for nearer term drinking.

Point 1: Track it ALL. What did you pay, when did you buy, when did you drink it. Track everything that touches your lips. After a few years, you can look back and have a good idea of your consumption habits (what, how much, and when) and start to model purchasing accordingly. It’s always going to have an element of randomness (a stellar vintage of the region you love, etc., your kids birth year), but it helps. A lot.

Point 2: As others have suggested - look for the styles you like in lesser appellations. If you really love Brunello, buy up some Rosso. If you like Barolo, buy up some Langhe Nebbiolo. Figure out the specific producers you like and buy down their lines. I find this works well to defend the cellar. For example Vajra makes a great Langhe Rosso for $14.

I know from tracking my habits that I won’t open more than $20 of wine on a weeknight and I really prefer to be in the $13-15 range. I also know how many such bottles I drink on a regular basis - this makes it a lot easier to commit to picking up half a case or more of something you taste on a whim in that range and worry less about having a bunch of wine that will not get drunk before it’s time.

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#17 Post by Chris T. » March 24th, 2018, 3:17 am

Thanks Matt. I’m in Portugal as we speak tackling the random wines I like and buying six packs from my home retailer.

When you buy Vajra do you buy the langhe Rosso for short term and the Barolo for long term? Or just the langhe?
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#18 Post by Lonnie F. » March 24th, 2018, 2:26 pm

M a t t W e i n s t e i n wrote:Chris T, I’m you, 3-4 years from now. I also started out with a small cellar of a few cases, many acquired from travel in California, Italy, etc. or bought shortly after based on tasting them there. Once I finally had a good and secure space for a bigger cellar, I built room for about 500 bottles, and it was off to the races. Now I have about 20 cases with 10-20 year lives and another 10 cases or so for nearer term drinking.

Point 1: Track it ALL. What did you pay, when did you buy, when did you drink it. Track everything that touches your lips. After a few years, you can look back and have a good idea of your consumption habits (what, how much, and when) and start to model purchasing accordingly. It’s always going to have an element of randomness (a stellar vintage of the region you love, etc., your kids birth year), but it helps. A lot.

Point 2: As others have suggested - look for the styles you like in lesser appellations. If you really love Brunello, buy up some Rosso. If you like Barolo, buy up some Langhe Nebbiolo. Figure out the specific producers you like and buy down their lines. I find this works well to defend the cellar. For example Vajra makes a great Langhe Rosso for $14.

I know from tracking my habits that I won’t open more than $20 of wine on a weeknight and I really prefer to be in the $13-15 range. I also know how many such bottles I drink on a regular basis - this makes it a lot easier to commit to picking up half a case or more of something you taste on a whim in that range and worry less about having a bunch of wine that will not get drunk before it’s time.
Matt,
This is great advice. I've been playing this game for about 2 years. I just looked at my CT data. It's interesting to see when I branched out from Cali Cab to Bordeaux, then to Spain and Italy. Spain is cool because I like wines with some age and the Spaniards release wine at a much older point. Vina Ardanza is 2008 right now and even Vina Alberdi is 2011. With Alberdi, I get to drink a cellar defender that's older than the wines I'm laying down!
Lonnie Fuller

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#19 Post by C h r i s t i n e Z u b r i s » April 8th, 2018, 2:46 pm

Happy to jump in as a fellow WB newbie, but collector for ~5 years, I’m a Xennial, who loves the glossy story behind small wineries and can also appreciate the legacy behind the first growth chateau and the Grand Cru’s of Burgundy.
About 2% of my collection is from before 2000. 10% 2000-2010 and the other 88% is from this decade. I’ve got a lot of waiting to do as well. :)
Here are my junior tactics:
I try to buy in threes (or a minimum of two).
I wait for sales (and I shop around online).
I have everyday red wine on my cellar walls and wines needing 5+ years in a dedicated wine fridge. Also a separate fridge for whites.

I’ve almost hit max capacity with 390 bottles in my current inventory, not including the cases of 2017 rosé that were just delivered for Spring/Summer.
-CZ

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#20 Post by M a t t W e i n s t e i n » May 21st, 2018, 10:27 am

Chris T. wrote:Thanks Matt. I’m in Portugal as we speak tackling the random wines I like and buying six packs from my home retailer.

When you buy Vajra do you buy the langhe Rosso for short term and the Barolo for long term? Or just the langhe?
Was looking back at old posts and missed this. Yes, buy both, but much higher volumes of the Rosso (when it is good. '16 for example was a let down... it is for the very short term, 3-4 years at most. It's high-QPR daily drinker stuff).

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#21 Post by Bob Kot » June 18th, 2018, 10:01 am

Taste as much wine as you can thru your travels, clubs, lists, wine groups, and informed individuals that can help you down the path to collecting and consuming the wines you want.

There’s plenty of wine in the $15.00-$25.00 category that drinks like it should cost 2x-3x.

One of my favorite questions when attending a wine event, is to ask what’s comparable to the higher priced wine at a fraction of the cost? The answers are interesting with an opportunity to try wines you wouldn’t of have encountered.

It takes time, patience and experience which you’re developing to find these wines. You know what you like. And remember tastes and preferences evolve, which is a good thing.

Being organized is also very powerful to manage expectations regarding your wine’s maturity lifecycle.
Using a wine app or even a simple spreadsheet to track anticipated maturity dates is helpful to over-see your wine inventory.

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