Building a collection from scratch

Hello! I’m looking for advice on building a personal wine cellar. Aside from purchasing lots of variety across strong producers and vintages, would tips do you have? Ideally the cellar is a healthy mix of long-term holds, along with great bottles that can be opened in 5-10 years. I’m 30 years old with $5k budget per year.

I’m looking at this, but from a lower budget level. Do you have proper storage for the wine? If not, anything outside of 5-10 years probably isn’t a great idea. Do you know what kind of wine you like?

Do not go too heavy on the style you like today as it will change. 10 years ago italian wines were low on my list. This is very different today (wish I bought barolo 10+ years ago!!) You are fortunate as you have great sources for purchasing in NY. When I buy online, most are NJ or NY shops as the variety and pricing for european wines are favorable.

You’ll hear this a lot but it’s true: taste as much as you can, from as many regions/vintages/producers/styles/etc. as you can. That’s going to be impossible with Covid. But when/if things subside, you’re in a great place for it. There are tastings and offlines all the time in NY. You’re not always going to be able to taste every wine before you buy–but tasting broadly will give you a sense of your tastes before you go too deep in any one direction. A few other random suggestions:

  • Don’t sign up for a ton of (or any) mailing lists. Lots of people do it, and it’s fine, but you’ll soon end up very heavy on a narrow range of producers. And with few exceptions, you can find wines retail for not far off mailing lists pricing.

  • Emphasize quality over quantity – and when in doubt, buy stuff that ages and has a long track record. I’m not saying you should be buying trophy wines. But find what you like and buy quality, even if it means you buy less wine. I think all of us wishes we had bought more of the classics when we were starting out.

  • Buy a mix of young and aged wines. I’m 37 and also started really building a cellar at about the age of 30 (a bit before then). You have the benefit of being young, so you can buy on release and age the wines yourself. That’s great, obviously, but you can quickly end up with a cellar where nothing seems ready to drink. So you should look for back vintages, particularly at auction (for instance, Zachy’s ZCollection auctions in NY have some fun stuff for not crazy prices). You can find a lot of perfectly aged back-vintage wines–from good vintages!–for basically the same as new-release pricing. That’s particularly true with Bordeaux.

  • Don’t neglect Champagne. It ages. It varies phenomenally in style. It’s brilliant young and old. And it’s brilliant with food. Pretty much every wine lover I know wishes they owned more Champagne. Basically all of that can also be said about Riesling, particularly from Germany and Austria.

Great point Ryan re: Champagne!