Did you promise yourself to start a “formal” wine collection this year, or at least vow to always have a few bottles on hand that would impress your dinner party guests? For wine enthusiasts, building a wine collection is a great idea if you entertain often or simply want to feel the luxury of having great wine at the ready.
Having built, then drank, moved and rebuilt my own collection a couple of times, I’ve discovered a few useful tips that can help you get started on building an impressive wine collection.
1. Start with storage
Before you go on a wine-buying binge, consider where you’re going to put it all. There’s nothing worse than a wine collection that spills into other rooms. Do you really want wine cases as a trip hazard?
Whether you build a custom cellar, add a new wine cabinet to your dining room or squeeze your growing collection into a small space, plan for your capacity first. Once you have the right storage, you’ll be fully prepared to house each and every bottle properly when you get home from your wine shopping spree.
2. Select a house wine
It’s fun to have a house wine on hand — a red or white wine from your favorite winery, at a comfortable price point, that you can keep stocked at the ready as your signature table wine. Guests will love it, and you’ll know that a wine you enjoy is always available to instantly upgrade even the most stressful day.
Here are some ideas to find your perfect house wine:
Attend wine tastings hosted by your local wineries, bottle shops or grocery stores
Find a wine blogger whose writing you like and explore some of their recommendations
Ask your Facebook friends for local recommendations and start sampling
Once you’ve identified a true favorite, stock up on a couple of cases (buying in bulk will usually help you shave a few bucks off the price). Voila — your house wine is ready to drink whenever you are.
3. Make your collection sparkle
You never know when an emergency bottle of Champagne or suitable sparkling wine may be required. Don’t take any chances. Ensure your wine collection features at least a couple bottles of something with fizz.
If the Champagnes you like are out of your budget, try some alternatives: Prosecco from Italy is popular, and many American winemakers have started to produce excellent sparkling wines.
4. Don’t forget about glassware (and other accoutrements)
Enjoying your wine collection is not just about the wine itself, but also about the container in which you imbibe your delicious beverage.
The right glassware will improve your in-home wine drinking experience (and impress guests.) And don’t forget your stemware also affects your startup budget and space considerations. As for accoutrements, you might want to get an extra corkscrew or two in case one gets misplaced.
5. Start a wine journal
It’s important to keep notes of the wines you liked so you can be sure to replace them when re-stocking your collection. You could buy a specific wine-tasting journal like 33 Wines or simply dedicate a small notebook to keeping tabs on what you’ve consumed and enjoyed. A wine label book is another option to keep track of which wines you’ve enjoyed.
You can also use a Word document or Excel spreadsheet for tasting notes. Wine apps can help you keep track of what you liked and didn’t like; with apps like Vivino, you can use your smartphone to scan labels and save your tasting notes.
Just be sure to pick a method you’ll actually use and update it with the following info alongside the name of the bottle:
The price of the wine
The year it was bottled
The vineyard where the wine was produced
Where you bought it
Why you liked it or didn’t like the wine
6. Host a wine night — with a twist
Last but not least, when you’re ready to put the finishing touches on your collection, call for help from your friends and host a wine night. Here’s the twist: tell them that you’re looking to improve your wine collection, and you’d like them to bring a bottle or two of their favorite wine to add to your collection.
Thank them for their kindness with a lovely dinner expertly paired with your house wine. During the meal, ask everyone to share stories about how they discovered their favorite wines. After the evening, email all your guests the full wine list so they can grow their own collections with even more favorites.
What are your recommendations for building a wine collection?
About the author: Andy Hayes is a creative web producer based in sunny Portland, Ore. He is also the founder of Plum Deluxe, a community of friends and family that enjoy life’s luxuries, big and small.