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Five Things to Know When Building a Wine Collection

“There’s never been a better time to be a wine collector,” says John Kapon. He is the CEO of Acker Merrall and Condit—the world’s largest auction house for fine and rare wine—and the author of a new book on his tasting notes, The Compendium: Tasting the World’s Finest Wines. “Quality today is at an all-time high, and its investment value has never been stronger.” He says global demand is increasing, and Asia will be the number one factor in the market for at least the next decade or two; the serious collector will have to do business globally.

Here, Kapon offers five key points to consider when building a fine wine collection.

  1. 1. Buy the Best

In real estate, it’s location, location, location. In the world of collectible wine, it’s producer, producer, producer. Invest in the top brands—Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Rousseau, Pétrus, Latour, Lafite, Giacosa, G. Conterno, Screaming Eagle, to name a few. There is a much longer list for me than solely these names, and there is a reason why all of them are the top brands. They have made great wines for a long time, have ironclad reputations in the market and amongst collectors, and have all increased in value significantly over time.

2. Buy with Purpose

A general rule: Buy bottles to drink and cases to invest. Original wood cases (OWCs) are the best long-term investment, as they receive premiums at resale. Depending on the producer, those OWCs may contain 3, 6, or 12 bottles. Buy too with the idea that you plan to drink some of these wines, meaning that you should buy more than just a single OWC of any great wine, pick up a mixed lot that includes some, or purchase a six-bottle lot to drink from. Wines are both museum pieces to be admired and drinks meant to be shared with friends, family, lovers, and colleagues (or any combination thereof!).

3. Care for These Wines as You Would Great Art

Producer, producer, producer is followed by provenance, provenance, provenance, which is a fancy way to say store these wines in a temperature-controlled cellar. Value increases over time not solely because of global demand for rare wines but also because your wines are known to have been stored well since release. Try to avoid moving your wines around; in general, the more they sit still, the better. Wines stored in great conditions become better over decades, and ultimately someone will want to drink it and pay you handsomely for it.

4. Look at Magnums for a Smart Purchase

Markets and collectors will pay a premium for magnums from the world's greatest producers and estates in part because there are fewer made. Wines in magnums also age somewhat more slowly than ones in bottles; that, too, is a strong pull for collectors worldwide. Plus there is an emotional, celebratory element to owning as well as opening a magnum of a great wine.

5. Remember What Is Important

Wine is, above all, meant to be enjoyed. The memories—granted, sometimes hazy ones—that I have with friends, family, and clients through great wine and conversation are some of the best memories of my life. Every great wine dinner is a special occasion. Love what you are buying. Wine is not an investment for investment’s sake; it is an object of desire. Unlike most other commodities, it can rock the soul.

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