I have been musing on this topic of late because a couple of newer wine collectors I have met posed the question in the title of this post in some form. It was also a timely thing to consider as in the past few years I have scaled back quite a bit on wine tasting. Still love it and always will, but these days my purchases are all very deliberate and precise due both to a lifetime of knowledge and a marketplace far less forgiving of experimentation.
For the fun of sharing, and for the benefit of newcomers (with the reminder that everyone has a very different journey), curious to know if you could go back 25 years (or at least as far back as to when you started collecting wine) and do it all over again- with your current knowledge fully intact- what would you do differently?
One caveat to keep this on a specific course- you can’t say you would buy up all the DRC, Roumier, Lafite etc. you could afford knowing it would be worth a fortune later and resellable in a highly liquid marketplace. We would all do that lol. And of course in the process, acting in unison, we would not change history- but merely accelerate the realization of its ends to date.
Here is my list,
I would have bought 6 bottles of Tignanello, 6 bottles of Mondavi Reserve Cabernet and 6 bottles of Drouhin Chambolle-Musigny 1er cru ever year, in each and every vintage.
In Burgundy in general, instead of my pattern at the time of about 75% grand cru to 25% AC/premier cru, I would have gone 50-50 or perhaps slightly in favor of premier cru.
In white Burgundy, I would have bought far more heavily in high acid vintages like 1993, and far less in vintages like 2002.
In Germany, I would have focused almost all of my buying on Spatlese and Kabinett, in that order, and far, far less Auslese (but still keenly seek out great TBA!)
In Bordeaux, I would have bought a lot more 3 and 6 bottle lots for variety and fewer full case lots.
I would have endeavored to explore and understand Italy and Spain far better before I got set in my ways.
I would have been more patient and determined in tasting and understanding the wines of St. Emilion- realizing there was a good reason the wines were so often specifically recommended by food authors to accompany french fare.
I have only been seriously into wine for a few years so keep that in mind. Here are some things that I wish I knew about wine from the start.
Start a tasting group. I have a tasting group with a few other families and we meet monthly. My wife and I are the only ones that are “serious” about wine but meeting every month is so much fun; everyone learns from tastings and strong bonds have been formed. I cannot suggest this one enough.
Take advantage of the helpful and insightful wine store workers. I have a couple wine shops in my region with workers that are former sommeliers, wine directors, enthusiasts, etc. They are often happy to talk about wines that they are excited about, already have tried many wines offered in the shop and can offer very valuable advice. I genuinely think that they enjoy talking to newcomers about wine. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from them.
Use the ‘search function’ on Winebersekers. I have researched so many topics from tons of users providing loads of insightful information. For free. It’s just fantastic. Don’t be shy. Go for a search.
Buy more wines from Champagne. Champagne signals that it is time to celebrate, pairs with so many foods and is overall delicious. I feel like I am always drinking, buying and enjoying wines from Champagne.
Why would one wish he had worse wine? You can always sell your cherries and get more bottles of lesser wines if you really want. I don’t have many regrets in my young collection period, but if anything I would do differently is to buy more blue chip wines at the beginning 4 or 5 years ago, when they were 50-200% cheaper.
Interesting to see the different views. Long experience - more premier cru, young/short short - more blue chip wines.
Do other with long experience share the more premier cru burgs thinking?
Ps. this comes from a very limited burg experienced drinker. Have had some “modest” burgundy wines that has impressed me more than I expected so would not be surprised if with experience I might have shared the view about more premier crus (if I started collecting in the good old days).
Wish I started to collect wines 10-5 years earlier before I did to be able to get hold of reasonably priced burg wines. Started to collect wines around 2010 and if I could do it all over again then there are few things I regret as it was (and still is) a journey and I am happy that I have tasted and drunk wines very wide. Quite some price hikes started to take place for more famous French areas so wouldn’t say I regret not buying them but it kind of put me off from exploring Bordeaux/Burgundy at that time.
One thing I would do less of, is buying too many bottles of a producer/vintage due to loving the wine, though not understanding the aging curve of the wines.
Even if I have quite a bit of Barolo/Barbaresco wines I however wish I would have purchased a lot more of 2008/2010 Barolos - there were some terrific deals to be had (and Nebbiolo was love at first sight, and very much remain so till today).
As for the whites, I was quite neutral and not that much of a fan till a white burgundy turned up and opened my eyes. If it wasn’t for my better half not being very keen on bubbles then I would have explored that earlier and had a couple of lovely champagnes thanks to and with @Blake_Brown, hence I guess I sooner or later will have to create a bit of room for that category of wines… Given how prices are going there as well… I will probably regret not having bought more champagne when I realized how terrific the good stuff is.
I’m with Alan, I would want way more daily drinkers than blue chips, maybe a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio. And it’s not just the provenance, it’s having the ready availability of 20 or so year old Bordeaux (or whatever is your pleasure) whenever you want it. To me, this is more a drinker-approach than a collector-approach, as I do pop wine every night. And it is way easier to source well-stored blue chips than it is daily drinkers.
I would also buy as many 375s for daily drinkers as I could. For guys like me, that like 1/2 bottle each evening, and whose wife does not drink red, this is the ideal format. And then like last night, I can finish off with a nice whisky.
For the blue chips that go long, say like a Montrose, I wish I had bought lots of them 25 years ago in 6 bottle formats and left them alone.
I would not change my focus, as like Alan I am very happy with my wine life. Even though I have experimented often, I will go back to Bordeaux, Chinon, and Northern Rhone as my prime focus. Well, I wish that I had stocked up on vintage Madeira.
I would not have bought much vintage Port, but focused on 20 year tawnies, and purchased as needed.
Bought Taittinger every year.
Focused on Right Bank Bordeaux a lot earlier, and bought a lot more 1998.
When Gentaz Dervieux offered some wines from his private stash after he sold to his nephew Rostaing, not hurrying back to a golf match. Good manners and letting down my partner got in the way of one of the potentially great buys of my time.
Unlike most of the Burgundy lovers, I would not change much. The only biggie was not breaking the bank when I was offered a stash of Rousseau going back to the eighties in 2004.
At a tasting of 1978 Chateauneufs, in the early eighties, there were two winners. Rayas and Vieux Telegraph. I loved both but the Rayas was $7 more a bottle, so I bought the VT. I have three bottles left from the three cases I bought, but I could have probably put my son through college, had I bought the Rayas.
I am pretty happy with what I have, and apart from Gentaz don’t have many regrets.
In my case, I was lucky: I didn’t have the money to buy full cases at first, so I got into the idea of buying mostly in pairs, then finding the wines I liked on the secondary market. All too often, when I have bought full cases without that prior knowledge, I have discovered that I don’t like the wine after the first bottle.
Likewise, I couldn’t afford the big names except for special occasions, so I really got into daily drinkers, which have always constituted two-thirds of my cellar.
I stopped buying EP quite early so I didn’t get burnt by that either.
My one big regret was following a critic whose taste changed (RMP). He served me well for the first few years then, not so well, then really not at all. Admittedly, my taste changed too.
Like many others, I was lucky too that I started collecting Bordeaux when it was more affordable. While it is true that quality has increased, meaning that a lower category CC today tastes often better than a higher category CC thirty years ago, there are some big names like Ducru and LLC that I simply would not have been able to try if I was starting my cellar today. As for the 1st Growths…!
Overall, I’m pretty happy with my choices and with that one exception, there isn’t much I would have changed. I’m just glad to have been able to enjoy such great experiences.
With the knowledge I have today, I would have acted a little differently 25 years ago.
I would buy at once(!) about 3000 bottles (the cellar’s occupancy and also family consumption of about 20-30 years) which became the most expensive since then (specific Burg, Barolo etc), and put them in the cellar.
Later, over the years to this day, I would drink them or exchange them (friends, dealers etc) at a pace that suited me with the wines of my choice as I like from time to time, gaining from price increasing.