ExplainerHow to start and maintain a serious wine collection: focus on bottles with cellaring potential, invest in champagne and vintage port and find flavours you love, say the experts

Bordeaux wines are renowned for their consistency, and therefore hold an especially sought-after place in collectors’ cellars. Photo: Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou
If you are serious about collecting wine, you need to look for two key features, says Jeannie Cho Lee, Asia’s first certified Master of Wine. “In addition to being ‘fine wines’, collectible wines should both possess age-worthiness – be able to cellar and improve with time – and have solid secondary market demand, from auctions, fine wine brokers and traders,” adds the recent PhD graduate in collectible wines.

Historically, there are some regions that consistently produce these kinds of wines – most famously those of Bordeaux and Burgundy in France. Vineyards there, such as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Chateau Lafite Rothschild and Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, produce excellent wines year in, year out, and therefore are especially sought-after by collectors.

While Bordeaux and Burgundy can age especially well, many collectors look beyond these big-name vineyards to California, Italy, Chile, Australia and elsewhere. Photo: Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou

“The great wines of Bordeaux, and particularly the Médoc, can age for decades,” explains Bruno Borie, co-owner at Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou. “When planted on deep gravels, cabernet sauvignon produces wines of exquisite freshness, densely concentrated black fruits and layers of ultrafine tannins, the formula for unparalleled longevity.”

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But the wine investor’s shopping list can – and these days should – reach beyond these traditional stalwarts. Napa Valley and Sonoma in California, Barolo in Italy, Chile, Australia – even Germany and New Zealand – are now producing wines of superlative quality and longevity that therefore have huge cellaring potential. That said, the top performing region in the world in 2021, according to Liv-Ex, the London-based fine wine exchange, was another very familiar name: Champagne, up an effervescent 34 per cent in the year to date.
A key attribute of a collectable wine is that it can improve over time spent in the cellar. Photo: Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou

“Vintage port is another collectible wine that has stood the test of time,” says Joe Czerwinski, editor-in-chief of Robert Parker Wine Advocate, arguably the most influential wine review magazine in the world.

Researching and buying wines is the fun part, but a serious wine collection has other considerations.

“Collecting wine carries certain costs – proper storage, cataloguing and insurance – and selling wine incurs others – transportation and commissions,” says Czerwinski. Which is why a wine collection needs to consist of wines that will increase in value over time.

A bottle of vintage 2000 Chateau Lafite Rothschild (left) and a bottle of vintage 2003 Cos D’Estournel, in Hong Kong. Photo: Xinhua

Wine’s built-in scarcity factor does make it a successful asset class. “It is both a diminishing asset and one where time invested in holding on to stock is often necessary and generally encouraged,” says Justin Gibbs, deputy chairman and exchange director at Liv-Ex.

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Above all, select wines that appeal to you. Whether purely for investment and resale, or for drinking with friends, a wine collection should always be something to enjoy. “A love of cuisine and the art of sharing good food and fine wine with family and friends – this is what wine is all about,” says Borie.
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  • When buying wine, look out for age-worthiness and whether the bottle has a solid secondary market demand from auctions and traders, says Jeannie Cho Lee, Asia’s first Master of Wine
  • French Bordeaux and Burgundy, with Chateau Lafite Rothschild and Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, are consistently great investments – but check out California, Italy, Chile, Germany and New Zealand too