How to Start a Wine Collection

Encouraging young oenophiles by sharing wine


I recently tasted some older Bordeaux with a few writers and Snoothers here in New York. Some words have already been written about the evening, in part by myself, but primarily by fellow attendees. A few people have communicated privately with me to ask about the wines and my impressions, so I figured I would take the time to write up my notes and add a few thoughts and impressions.

First off, this was a wine philanthropy tasting. It is my personal belief that those of us who had the means to buy great wines in our youths owe something for that privilege. This debt is paid off by sharing the wines with those who were not as fortunate or, even better, with those who will not be as fortunate. I came of age in a time when outrageously expensive wines were $50, wines that were great but expensive were $25 and wines of character could be had for $10.

Photo courtesy Megan Mallen via Flickr/CC
I recently wrote an article comparing the wine prices of 1986 and today to help illustrate the broad jumps wine has made in the intervening years. Today, wines of character may cost $20-30, great but expensive wines are $100-150, and those $50 wines often sell for hundreds and even thousands of dollars. We can’t expect the next generation of wine drinkers to have experiences that build the level of passion we share without providing a little help. In my mind, popping a few corks is the best way to go about helping!

So with that reason, I invited some fellow writers over to talk about wine, writing and the like. I chose a group of Bordeaux to taste because there was a good story among the bottles and because that was what I had on hand.

I am now getting ready for a second installment  of this “Drink Greg’s Wine” philanthropy movement. This event is set to include wines from some of the premier wine producing regions and vintages in Europe. 1983 Bordeaux, 1989 Barolo, 1996 Burgundy, 1997 Tuscany, 1998 Northern Rhone and 2001 Germans. But for now, back to the Bordeaux at hand.

I chose the wines that I did so that there would be some overlap between vintages, appellations and styles. Three of the wines came from Ch. Meyney, the St. Estephe Cru Bourgeois producer that always over-delivered values back in the day. There was certainly a good story there, $7 wines that delivered typicity and great ability to age.

To contrast the joyous rusticity that Meyney expresses, I chose a pair of vintages of Cos d’Estournel, St. Estephe’s grandest Chateau and one that vied for the appellation’s wine of the vintage nearly every year. Cos has changed much since the wine we tasted were produced. It now vies for top honors with the first growths in most vintages, and is sadly priced accordingly.

The final wine, a single vintage of Paulliac’s Ch. Lynch Bages, is a wine that straddles so many of the story lines that I find it fascinating. It’s from a different appellation to start, shares a vintage with one of the bottles of Cos, and is an over-performer of sorts, on the level of the Meyney. It’s from one of my favorite producers in Bordeaux for that same reason. “Over-performer” is a description ill suited for much of today’s Bordeaux, but one that still characterizes Lynch Bages. Despite my opinion, many people might argue just the opposite, that Lynch Bages is an under-performer as it rarely shows well in its youth. But with patience, this ugly duckling does indeed turn into the beautiful swan, as Bordeaux so typically did back in the day.

So there it is, layered story lines, all ready to be told with the mere uncorking of bottles. This, to a certain extent, is why I enjoy wine so much. So, how do the stories pan out?

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Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: tblaw007
    435771 2

    Mr. Dal Piaz,

    I have always thought that one of the best parts of being a wine geek is being able to share wines with people unfamiliar with the depth and breadth of available wines--in particular older wines, as there are not a lot of people who buy and hold wines. Your column has inspired me to make a greater effort to share the old bottles I have. I had little money for the 1986s, but I will open some 1989's tonight for friends. Thanks for the inspiration.


    Nov 11, 2011 at 12:20 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Hi Terry,

    That is great news! Maybe some day we can share a few bottles? I would love to hear how your evening goes and hope your bottles shine. Please let me know if you're ever out my way here in NYC.

    Best regards


    Nov 11, 2011 at 1:18 PM

  • Greg, do you find that some younger wine drinkers don't understand the wines? As someone with an old-fashioned palate, I've found that some younger people who grew up with Parker wines don't understand the fuss over the excellent wines of the 1970s and 80s.

    Nov 11, 2011 at 7:19 PM

  • Snooth User: ZoeSimon
    578241 0

    I would love to understand wines this it sappy to admit this article brought tears of missed opportunities/nostalgia to my eyes? Thank you for preserving a bit of wine lore for those of us who don't have it. I grew up in a teetotaling family and did not begin to enjoy wine until a few years ago (in my 30s). So much to learn.

    Nov 11, 2011 at 7:27 PM

  • My passion for wine and discussion grew in the late 1970's when I would periodically visit a cooking store of an older gentleman. He had lost his wife and was lloking for comfort. I was looking for knowledge. He sold French wines in the back of his store. One day he said to sit while he oened a wine that I have long since forgotten. However, as we sipped on the wine and he talked, I grew more knowledgable about wine and life. After several months of doing this, one day, his shop was completely empty and him gone.The memories of this early mentor needing company and me knowledge are the only thing left of our encounters. From this beginning, I have become passionate about wine, life, and the companionship associated with sharing that unique bottle. Wine is meant to be shared!

    Nov 11, 2011 at 8:28 PM

  • Thank you Zoe for that ' it sappy to admit this article brought tears of missed opportunities/nostalgia to my eyes?' -- I dare not think about all the missed oppportunities because they are also reminders of a life that is successfully behind me! And thank you Greg, with my whole heart for your philanthropy -- I'm going to do my very best to emulate this in some way - seeing that I don't have access to old cellared beauties, neither am too flush to buy new ones, but do have a great philanthropic heart and a humongous love for wine! Thank you also for the wine-coaching in this article. Wholeheartedly concur, Wine-Walker --- wine is meant to be shared, especially good wine!

    Nov 12, 2011 at 2:01 PM

  • There is one simple rule which many US wine drinkers will have to learn how to follow.

    To start a wine collectiuon, you have to:

    a) Buy wine, and then
    b) NOT DRINK IT!!

    It's a sad fact that as much as 90 percent of the wine bought in the U.S. is drunk within 24 hours - and some 95 percent of all wine purchased in the U.S. is consumed within a week.

    That, my friends, is a very shortlived collection.

    Here's our own, very British take on the pleasures of buying wine and NOT drinking it:

    Nov 14, 2011 at 6:12 AM

  • Snooth User: Giacomo Pevere
    Hand of Snooth
    806471 999

    ... i've writed a comment for a half of hour and is gone :(

    Save your bottles but take care of time, don't let your wine die in the bottles.

    Nov 22, 2011 at 11:13 AM

  • Snooth User: jsncruz
    1001336 68

    I store a lot of my wine, but I make sure that the younger bottles meant for consumption are opened within the year :) I love to drink wine, and I also love looking at my growing collection, so I get quite the pleasure from both worlds :)

    Feb 17, 2012 at 1:39 AM

  • Snooth User: mark holys
    1176343 36

    Great article and comments!!! I especially identify with the nostalgia of sharing fine wine and learning....not only about wine and ....of course life....but of simplicity and sentient pleasures that become so saliently available when enjoying wine with a friend.

    Thanks for the check-in with those feelings....

    Jul 31, 2013 at 9:21 PM

  • I am ready to be a wine muse, it's my dream!

    Jul 31, 2013 at 9:56 PM

  • Snooth User: ccash
    1310458 19

    I only have a small wine cooler. I leave the top half for daily drinkers and the bottom half for aging -- but that's only 12 bottles. I have a dilemma. I'd like to stock up on some 2009 now, and lay it down for 10 years... but not sure where to put it. I'm afraid the bottom of a dark closet will average 75 degrees and that won't be good. Any advice?

    Aug 01, 2013 at 1:06 AM

  • Snooth User: ryteljh
    1237914 55

    I only skimmed this article, but one line did stand out as a favorite,

    "with the fart of a black currant adding some hope of future pleasure."

    Young or old, delicious wine has always made me smile and mishaps with the word fart will always give me a chuckle.

    Aug 01, 2013 at 11:25 AM

  • Snooth User: mrwino
    1279683 64

    As a wine writer myself, I have always been somewhat of a rebel when it comes to holding wine. I had this discussion several years ago with Gary Vaynerchuk and of course we disagreed. Here was my point. Be it young or old, wine is only as good as its impression when you first taste it. At that point, buy it if you wish…then drink it! If you like a wine and some wine-snob or ill-informed bottle jockey tells you how great it’ll be in ten years, just ask them “exactly what will it taste like in ten years”? The answer will be an opinion that may just as well come from a Carnac the Magnificent sketch on the Tonight Show. NOBODY knows what the wine will taste like in ten years…NOBODY! If you like a wine, buy it and drink it, because in ten years it won’t taste the same. Thusly, you may now have a wine that you babysat for ten years, and now you may not even like it. If you live here in California’s wine country, as I do, you also have to worry about unexpected things like heat and earthquakes. Some years ago, 1969 to be exact, many people lost their prized bottles of “aging” wines to the Santa Rosa earthquake. I had a friend a few years ago, returned home from a fantastic vacation in Maui. He quickly became distraught when he found out he lost his entire wine cellar due to a power outage which lasted three days in 100 degree plus August heat. He had several bottles of “aging” Dalla Valle, Shafer, Colgin, Bryant and others, including his three prized bottles of Screaming Eagle, which were now all cooked to the max. So go ahead and drink your wine, or if you must, keep them for years of aging to possibly enjoy them with friends, if you’re even still alive ten years from now!

    Aug 05, 2013 at 5:35 PM

  • Snooth User: ddingley
    395920 5

    "These were glasses of rocks, gravel, leather and tannins, with the fart of a black currant adding some hope of future pleasure. Oh yes, these were old-school and painfully so"
    You are forgiven for your lengthy ruminations because of this wonderful bit of wine writing. As far as drinking young vs. aging and hoping for a great old wine experience, I say yes! i.e. why not both. I love my Parker approved over the top modern monsters some times, and I'm learning to love the more subtle old world stuff too. I hope my palate doesn't ever dismiss either because I currently love a wide variety of wines and styles and varietals.

    Aug 08, 2013 at 3:27 PM

  • Snooth User: mrwino
    1279683 64

    You're right ddingley, why not enjoy both! That's up to you, if you want to take that chance, in hopes of enjoying a bottle one day in the future...maybe! But lets not confuse "old wine" with that of "old world" wine. Two totally different wines, and two different experiences. I love old world wines, especially with food, as they do tend to be more food friendly. I hope that's what you meant. If not, my apologies.

    Aug 08, 2013 at 3:53 PM

  • Snooth User: ddingley
    395920 5

    I did sort of mix my points there, didn't I. My cellar in KC is surrounded by a foot or more of concrete all the way around, isn't cooled but never goes above 72 (that's when we have our weeklong 100 degree temps), and not in an earthquake zone, so not much risk. If heat after power failure was a risk I'd definitely invest in some backup generator capacity. I have a variety of wines 5-10 years old, moreso from Spain/France/Italy, where I think they aren't showing yet what they could and so longer aging is called for. I like old wines and will try to "make" some myself by leaving that part of the cellar alone. I guess my point is that I like variety in all its forms and aging some wine is part of that.

    Aug 08, 2013 at 4:21 PM

  • Snooth User: mrwino
    1279683 64

    That's kind of what I thought. Are you drinking any California wines? I was in Dry Creek this past week to pick up a couple club shipments. If you do, a couple you might check out are Mazzacco, Armida and Wilson. These wineries put out some of the best Zins I've tasted. Club members at all three. Bought and drank bottles of library 2003 Zin and new release 2012 of the same wine at dinner that night. All things considered, the 2012 was superior to the 03 in fruit, balance, finish and such. I must admit that 03 did pair a bit better with some of the food, but not worth holding my 12 for another nine years. As he said in the movie..."it taste pretty good to me."

    Aug 08, 2013 at 5:19 PM

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