Row of wine in glasses for tasting

Fine and Rare Wines

A guide to starting or expanding your collection.

Anecdotally, you probably know that wine collecting is a growing trend. According to Maggie Reynolds, senior fine art and collections specialist for Chubb Insurance, in the last five years, the company has seen a nearly 40 percent increase in high net worth clients with significant wine collections in their homes.

The market itself, Reynolds notes, is gradually globalizing. And while it’s increasingly sophisticated, the wine market remains unregulated. “Look for a reputable source,” she recommends. The generally accepted sales fee for a merchant dealing in collectible wines is 10 percent of the bottle’s price.

Only about 1 percent of wine produced is considered for wine investment, and about 80 percent of those wines are Bordeaux, Reynolds says. When buying prestige wines, buy by the case and ask for the provenance of the wine. Two important tips on collectible wines: A sealed case of wine will trade at a premium of 10 percent higher than an unsealed case. And when you’re buying wine from overseas, check the air miles associated with the case: Flying too many times can affect the quality and storage of the wine.

As for protecting your wine, Reynolds offers a few important pointers that even some experienced collectors may overlook.

“Not only is it important to have temperature controls in place, but equally critical is to have the system monitored and alert you if something is disrupted.” It is important, she notes, that the space you’ve designated for wine—whether it’s a fancy cellar or a wine refrigerator—remain at a constant cool temperature of about 52-57 degrees F. High temperatures age wine faster, and low temperatures slow down maturity. Wine can only survive a few hours in temperatures up to 120 degrees.

Humidity should consistently measure between 60-80 percent; it’s necessary in order to keep the cork moist. “If it dries out,” she warns, “air will get in and the wine becomes oxidized or ‘corked.’ Good circulation of air is essential to avoid damp aromas, which will penetrate the cork and will ultimately give the wine a musty taste.”

Lighting is another element to consider. Wine, particularly red wine, needs to be kept in the dark. “Ultraviolet light will prematurely age wine, and give it unpleasant aromas,” Reynolds adds. “Sparkling wine is considerably more sensitive to light. Overall intense light exposure over time will damage chemicals and ultimately change the taste.”

Wine collectors of all levels can benefit from a few good online resources. Here are Reynolds’s favorites: International wine critic James Suckling posts daily wine ratings, reviews, tasting notes and even a page of collectibles of the day. From the famous Robert Parker, this independent consumer’s guide to fine wines lets subscription holders search more than 285,000 notes from The Wine Advocate, Parker’s books and other sources; track vintage and wine maturity, and find retailers, importers, brokers and distributors. Internationally known wine writer Jancis Robinson and a team of writers and wine experts collaborate on this online resource of wine writing and education that spans the globe.

Click through our Accent gallery for more on wine collecting.