To Sip or to Save

Wine Collecting at its Finest

Christie’s guide to building and maintaining a wine collection with confidence

While there are wines you ritually pop open after a long work week, go-to bottles perfect for gift-giving, and others that you save for hosting dinner parties, there are still others that require a large amount of time—and an even bigger moment—to break open.

Those special bottles can often start one’s foray into wine collecting, and whether you’re just getting started or looking for ways to build and maintain your current collection, there are simple ways to improve your collection’s value and quality.

Charles Antin, associate vice president and wine specialist at Christie’s, suggests buying en primeur, or on release, which refers to the method of purchasing wine early, while the vintage is still in the barrel. This, Antin says, allows a buyer to invest in a particular wine before it’s bottled and to feel confident about his or her purchase.

Unlike that abandoned stamp collection, your wine collection can’t gather dust in the back of a closet. Storage is key, Antin says, and light, temperature, and humidity are the most important factors in maintaining a proper cellar. The ideal conditions—55 degrees Fahrenheit, 70% to 80% humidity, and absolute stillness and darkness—are easily created in a home cellar. To maintain the integrity of your wine collection, existing bottles should be stored accordingly, and any newly acquired bottles should immediately be transferred to your home cellar.

It’s not only important how you store your bottles, but how those you purchase for your collection were stored, too. Those that hit the auction block at Christie’s have rarely been moved and experienced minimal fluctuations in temperature. When making a purchase for your collection, don’t be afraid to ask questions about the storage conditions.

What was the bottle that started your collection?

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