How and why to get started building your own wine collection


Wine is always a good thing to keep on hand at your house. If you’re anything like Andrew, Meghan, and me then you probably always have a house wine on hand. You might also have some nice bottles you’d like to save for special occasions or maybe even let age for a bit. But how do you turn having a few bottles on hand into a full-blown wine collection? To answer that question, we have a few tips and tricks for starting your own collection.

Further reading: House (Wine) Hunters: One red each from France, Italy, and Spain that perform well above their price

Choosing Wine

When you’re looking to buy wine for a collection, you’re looking for wine that has potential to improve. Only about 5-10% of all wines will improve over a 1 year period, while only 1% of wine can improve for up to 10 years. While those are small percentages, there’s a lot of wine out in the world, so you will still have a lot of options. Just know that not all wine is meant to be kept for a long period of time.

So how do you know if a wine will age well? One way to tell is to open a bottle of the wine. Try some of the wine right after opening. Leave the bottle open for a few hours and try it again. Cork your bottle and taste it again the next day. If the wine tastes better or just as good the next day, it will age and is worth investing in more bottles.

What if I don’t want to or can’t try a bottle right now? There are few general rules of thumb when deciding if a wine will improve over time.

  • Wine with a high alcohol content will not age well. The alcohol content will destroy the fruit and the tannins as the wine ages. Avoid Shiraz and Zinfandel when looking for wine to age.
  • Wines with higher acid content will typically age well because of the lack of sugar in the wine. Look for wines from cooler climates. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Cabernet Franc are all historically grown in cooler climates.
  • Only certain sparkling wines or Champagnes will age well. Look for ones that have a specific vintage, but know that aged sparkling wine or Champagne will be very different because of the bubbles.

If you’re looking at French wines, you will typically buy a recent vintage. French winemakers leave it up to you how long to age your wine. In contrast, Italian and Spanish winemakers tend to hold their wines back until they are ready for you to drink it. A current release from Spain or Italy may already be seven or eight years old before you can purchase it. That’s not to say you can’t age the Spanish and Italian wines a few more years, but they have already been aged to an “acceptable” standard.

Further reading: Spanish Wine 101: Understanding regions, grapes, classifications, labels to help you choose the best

Storing Wine

Where you store your wine makes a huge difference in the aging process. Ideally, wine should be stored in a dark alcove and kept at 55 degrees Fahrenheit. For every 18 degrees in temperature you go up, the wine ages about 1 year faster. So if you keep your wine in your living room, you’ll want to drink it faster than if you store it in a cellar or a basement. A wine fridge is not a bad investment!

Purchasing Wine

The best tip for locating wine for your collection is to go to a wine shop. When you go in the store, make sure the place doesn’t feel like a sauna. Ideally, the employees would be wearing sweaters if they’re storing wine at the right temperature. Avoid stores with wines displayed in a sunny window. You may also want to ask if they have a history of the wine so you can ensure the bottles have been properly handled and stored before getting to the store.

Aging Wine

When you’ve found a wine you’d like to age, buy at least 3-6 bottles of the wine. A full case is ideal, but can be cost prohibitive! You may want to try opening one of the bottles each year to see how the wine changes over time. Be aware some wines go through a “teenager” or “dumb” phase. As the wine ages, it may plateau before it gets better.

Whether you’re looking to build an large or small wine collection, be sure to keep this information in mind. It’s always good to ask questions about the wine if you’re not sure it will age well. Happy collecting!