Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Breadth or Depth?

Wine can be a dangerous thing. Sure, there are physical maladies that can arise from the alcohol contained within, but the addiction it can cause can be the most perplexing. I'm not talking about alcoholism. I'm talking about the addictive nature of wine collecting. I know that many of you are also afflicted by this, sometimes, debilitating condition. Whether you know it or not, there are many others just like you.

From the first sip of truly fine wine that gets its vinous hooks into you, to the feeling you get when you make the mailing list of a forgotten winery you signed up with years ago, or the adrenaline rush that makes your heart race when you find that rare wine sitting on the retail shelf with the original (and uninflated) price still on the bottle, makes you want more. Soon that case of wine in a dark closet turns into a modest wine cooler. Then the cooler turns into an off-site storage site where your treasures remain safe from your spouse (and even yourself; how dare you drink that bottle before it has 10 years of age on it...). Finally, you come to grips with your affliction and bite the bullet and build a wine cellar in that extra room in the basement. You're not afraid to announce to the world that you have a problem, and you're proud of it!

There is nothing wrong with buying more wine than you drink. Sure, there are those who buy wines hoping to resell at a profit, but I'm talking about building a wine collection with consumption in mind. Starting a wine collection means that in a few years you'll be drinking even better than you do now. You won't believe the number of times I go to pick a bottle of wine out and tell myself, "No, wait a few years."

But will my taste in wine change in a few years? Will the wines I am stockpiling now still excite me when I allow myself to open them? Will I be kicking myself for choose this wine over a different wine? Questions like these have to make you consider your collecting strategy.

I spend more on wine than I'd like to admit, but not as much as I would like. But being on a fixed budget (my wife is keeping me from living in a house made out of cardboard wine boxes), forces me to consider carefully how I choose which wines I buy. I have to ask myself, "Do I want to buy a few bottles of many different producers or buy many bottles of a few choice producers?" Looking at my inventory on CellarTracker.com, I can see that I have somewhere between 350-400 bottles of wine (I need to be more attentive about adding and removing wines from the database). One of the awesome features of CellarTracker is that I can summarize my cellar by region (or by producer, variety, vintage or a number of other categories). As a geographer at heart, I like having a diverse collection of wine from around the U.S. and the world. I am pleased that I can say I have wine from California, Colorado, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Virginia and Washington in my cellar. Australia, Argentina, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain are also represented.

Yet, other collectors choose to focus on just California or just France. Is that better than having just a few wines from many places? Absolutely not. But I think many wine aficionados may not take the time to consider if they are buying for breadth or depth. Ideally, applying both approaches would be great, but is not financially not feasible for most people.

I actually am on a buying hiatus (because I spent all of my 12-month budget in less than 8 months) until the new year. It pains me to know that there are wines that I want to buy during the next few months that I will be unable to because I did not plan my purchases all that well. On the bright side, I will have a few months to come up with a wine-buying plan for 2014. It may mean not buying certain wines that I have historically bought, but I am excited about buying more diverse wines. Nothing against Napa, but I am more looking forward to having Michigan and Finger Lakes wines from which to share with my friends and family. And after all, that is why I decided to start collecting wine (aside from the addiction); to share my passion with others.

Thus, I leave you with a question to which I am sincerely interested in hearing your responses. Do you buy (you don't have to collect wine to answer) wine from a variety of regions/producers or do you buy mostly from a few you know you like?

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