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BW Businessworld

Uncork Good Times

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Collecting wines is a painstaking process that involves visits to vineyards and auctions to get the right mix of varietals and maturities for many, Collecting wine is akin to building ass-ets. It is often compared to collecting works of art, luxury watches, designer novelties, vintage cars and antiques. A wine connoisseur collects prized and highly rated vintages as a reflection of his individual style and taste.

A key part of building a personal and meaningful collection is to identify what your allotted budget is, including the storing capability of wines. Identifying the type of wine that you like is essential — whether it is Bordeaulaise or Burgundian, Italian or Spanish, Old World or New World, Boutique or Classic.  You should decide an order of preferences and then let that determine your storage volumes. A well-balanced collection is one that has 60 per cent Old World wines, meant to be aged, and 40 per cent New World wines that are younger, robust and ready to drink.

Buying wines while travelling abroad or while visiting a vineyard are the best ways to build a collection. Buying wines at vineyards is an excellent idea as the interaction with the wine maker or chateau owner is priceless. Auction houses are a great place to find rare wines that normally have limited access to the public.

The most alluring aspect of auction houses for collectors is that not only do they sell obscure vintages, they also guarantee the authenticity of the seller. Another advantage is that a variety of bottle sizes is available. For example, a 6-litre bottle of Methuselah, a 9-litre bottle of Salmanazar, and a 12-litre bottle of Balthazar of rare vintage are more likely to be available at auction houses than a wine importer or sales agent.

Three of my favourite auction houses for fine and rare wines are Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Hospices de Beaune. Modern auction houses like Zachys also offer the buyer the ability to bid online. Bidding in an auction is a very easy undertaking.

One finds out about an upcoming auction on the house’s website. Often, the house itself may send emails. Sales are also conducted by contacting wine specialists or sales associates whose numbers are provided on the websites. The bidding can happen by representation or over the phone and, in the case of Christie’s, live online as well. Auction houses also allow private bids, which is a plus for the more discreet collector.

CLASSIC BREW: At auction houses, one can find the rarest of wines that come with a certificate of authenticity
Here are some classic wines that are bound to be on the lists of top collectors worldwide:
• Chateau Margaux 1989
• Petrus, Pomerol 2000
• Chateau Latour 2001
• Krug Clos d’Ambonnay 1995
• La Tache 2002
• Gaja Sori San Lorenzo 1999
• Opus One, Napa 1985
• Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape 1998
• Vega Sicilia, Ribera del duero Unico Gran Reserva 1976
• Weingut Joh. Jos. Prum, Germany 1971

Collectors' Karma
While building a wine collection one should make sure that there is a good mix of ready-to-drink wines and wines kept aside for ageing. This gives you the opportunity to enjoy the pleasure of tasting versatile wines while not opening a wine before it has matured.

Storage and cellar maintenance are imperative, especially for wines kept at home. A temperature-controlled humid cellar or room is a must. The storage room should preferably be dark with low lighting so as not to disturb the wine. Storing at the right temperature is absolutely crucial to the longevity of the wine. Very often, wines served in India are over-exposed to heat and, unfortunately, tend to lose their lustre and pristine quality.

Keeping the wine as still as possible and on its belly is imperative; friction to the bottle can damage the wine and make it unfit to drink. Also, for older wines, stillness is important for separating the sediment that tends to collect as the wine ages.

There are many facets to owning a wine collection, including stocking wines that one would like to drink often. Cherishing the memory of a date or an anniversary is a lovely occasion to uncork a bottle of wine. To some, collecting subdues the curiosity of certain wine varietals or styles. To others, owning and collecting bottles is a matter of prestige — the rarer the wines in one’s collection, the greater the honour.

Often, in my job as a wine consultant, I come across people who barely consume their prized vintages. These collectors also create impeccable leather-bound encyclopedia-like catalogues that are handed out to their friends as a glorious tribute to their research and passion for the wines collected.

Last but not the least, some collect for the sybaritic passion of drinking and being able to taste fine and rare wines. Whatever the reason for collecting, a good wine is the essence of a good life.

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 07-10-2013)