There are few greater pleasures in life than the process of collecting and drinking the fine wines that we love. Wine has a unique and special ability to bring us together, and in each glass there is a new story of terroir, history, culture and people waiting to be discovered.
Collecting fine wine is an art form in itself. The greatest collections and cellars on earth are often decades in the making, with their proud owners diligently scouring the wine world to seek out their favourite producers and vintages to add to their own personal vinous treasure trove. There is much to consider when building your collection, but we think that the single most important element of a wine collection is that it should reflect the passions of its owner. There is no reason to compile a world-beating cellar full of red Bordeaux if your preference is white Burgundies!
However, no matter what your personal tastes may be, there are a few key features which combine to make some wines more desirable than others, no matter their shape or style. These building blocks help us to understand and identify the very best fine wines, which are not only going to add value and prestige to our collections but also offer the most exquisite drinking experiences when that much-anticipated time finally comes.
The name on the bottle is perhaps more important to collectors than any other single feature. The producers with the best reputations in all the world’s finest wine regions, from Burgundy to the Napa Valley, are usually the most sought-after. For some collectors, the name on the bottle alone is often enough to seal the deal. However, producer reputation is always a moving feast and a good name can be won or lost. Estates can lose their magic touch and fall into decline, or conversely find a new lease of life with new investment or management – although it seems that some names, such as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti or Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, will never go out of fashion.
An element of collecting that is particularly important to the Chelsea Vintners team, good provenance ensures that a collector’s purchases are both in pristine condition ready to be stored, and that the wines are what they say on the tin! Whilst the world’s fine wine markets have enjoyed a steady upward trajectory in recent years, this has also created opportunities for a new generation of wine fraudsters (the infamous story of Rudy Kurniawan immediately springs to mind!) and so perfect provenance and confidence that our bottles are the real deal is of paramount importance. Improper storage conditions can also damage the longevity and integrity of fine wines. However, many of the best bottles will be offered with a full storage history, photographs and additional information to give collectors peace of mind.
Production encompasses many of the most important features that we look for when buying wine. This is where we ask ourselves questions such as, what were the vintage conditions like? Were 1000 or 10,000 bottles released? Are the grapes grown in a Village vineyard or Grand Cru site? Each and every one of these questions and many more can serve to inform us about many key features of a collectible wine, such as its inherent quality, capacity to age and how it will taste when it is finally uncorked.
Whilst collecting wine is certainly an art, we truly believe that underpinning any great fine wine collection is a passion for the wine itself. The very best collections are not those that are left to gather dust, but the ones that are constantly changing and evolving, uncorked for special occasions and memorable moments with loved ones. Wine is ultimately a convivial pleasure that is created to be consumed and appreciated, and as satisfying as the sight of row upon row of pristine, untouched bottles may be, there really is no greater pleasure than the act of removing that cork and delighting in the contents.