I recently spent a not-insignificant amount of money on wine. The kind of amount that would make my non-vino friends baulk, and disappoint my family. I told myself it was an investment; the value of a bottle of 1985 Sassicaia has increased 187-fold since its initial release. I do not own bottles of 1985 Sassicaia that now cost in the region of $3,000 each. Instead, I’m the proud owner of a case of Premier Grand Cru Classe A St Emilion and a mixed bag of weird, left-field wines, including bottles of a natural persuasion. In other words, wines that would eventually be drunk instead of re-sold.
It was, however, the start of a nascent collection – if one could call it that. As someone who’s never amassed enough of anything to form a collection before, I’m beginning to see the particular condition that affects wine collectors – buying wines is addictive. A few reasons get the dopamine going: finding good deals, the thrill of discovering a new bottle, and the satisfaction of a well-stocked fridge.
It’s the lattermost that I’ve derived the most pleasure from. There’s great fun in allocating what scant fridge real estate I have to bottles that deserve a place. This includes wines I want to revisit anywhere between five and 20 years – crisp, refreshing whites for hot days, steak night wines, sweet wines, dinner party generalists and oddities for curious company. In some ways, it was like building a personal wine list. Except that only time will tell if I did a good job.
Of course, there’ll always be the niggling regret that I should have spent my money with a little more prudence – and purchased bottles that promised better returns. All investments should be driven by logic, but they rarely are and this proves doubly so for winos trying to make money from wine. I’ve met collectors who, despite having bottles of exquisite provenance and profitability, could not bear to part with them. Even if they never got to drink said wines, perhaps their children might. There are distributors of fine wines that would rather offer rare back vintages directly to restaurants than put them up for retail sale – just so said bottles can be tasted, appreciated, and used to educate.
I’ve heard stories of sommeliers saving up just so they can afford bottles that cost an entire month’s salary so that they can try these wines and share them with friends. No other beverage inspires such seemingly frivolous behaviour. Like love, sometimes we do crazy things for wine – and there are no regrets.