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Taste Your Way to an Affordable, Well-Stocked Wine Cellar

Aug 17, 2007
Does the phrase "wine collector" conjure up an image of a millionaire living in a large home with a temperature-controlled room dedicated to holding fine wines?

It shouldn't. If you buy wine, you are a wine collector.

First off, you don't have to have a special room dedicated to storing your wine. As long as you keep your stash in a quiet, dark, coolish place where bottles can lay on their sides, you have a wine cellar. It could be under the bed, on the closet floor, in a refrigerated cooler, or in a basement room.

Secondly, you don't have to be rich to stock your "cellar" with fine wines; you just have to be smart. The operative concept is taste the wines and decide for your self. Doing your own tasting "homework" is an essential part of accumulating a wine cellar that you will enjoy.

Be aware that higher price does not necessarily mean the wine is better or that you will like it more than a less expensive wine. I live by the motto, "if you can't taste the difference, don't pay the difference."

In general, you will stock your cellar with three categories of wine. First are the table wines you drink within the first 12 to 24 months, before they lose their youthful fruitiness. These are your favorite everyday wines for under $15 a bottle. A whopping 90% of the wines produced in the world fall into this category!

Next are the mid-priced wines that can be drunk now, but will benefit from time in bottle. These are special occasion wines costing $15 to $25 a bottle. Keep them for about five years and they will have slightly more varied aromas and flavors. These reflect 9% of all the wines in the world.

And the last 1% of your stock is reserved for rare wines. It's not for everyone, but collecting some special vintage year bottles -- the age worthy ones that only get better with age -- can be a fine investment.

Here are six strategies to use so you don't have to empty your wallet in order to fill up your cellar with your favorite wines.

1. Experiment with less familiar grape varieties for bargains. Take the road less traveled and try wines you have never heard of. For example, the low-priced premier red of Portugal, called Bairrada, or South Africa's Pinotage might be unfamiliar, but they often deliver as good a quality and taste as the more expensive wines of California or Australia.

2. Find understudies for your favorite wines and you can save 20% to 30%. For example, when you need a stand in for Chardonnay, try Spain's top white, Albarino, or let Malbec from Argentina go on stage, and give Cabernet the night off.

3. Buy the "next door neighbor." Seek out wines from up-and-coming areas adjacent to famous vineyards and save a bundle. These well-made wines are easy on the wallet and offer real value. So start tasting Merlot-based blends - not from pricey St Emilion and Pomerol - but from their neighboring areas.

4. Sniff out the "wanna-bees." Megastar Tom Cruise went from being paid $75,000 as a wanna-be to getting $75 million for his three "Mission Impossibles." Your mission, if you accept it, is to find those budding megastar wines before they become famous and unaffordable. For example, a bottle of Elyse Cabernet, sold for just $14.50 in 2000, and is now at $56 and climbing.

5. Ask specifically for "second labels" of famous red wines from Bordeaux and Cabernet and Bordeaux-like blends from California. These are premium wines made from grapes that just weren't quite good enough to go into the top brand, but they are dead ringers for their more privileged cousins -- only they're about one-third the price.

6. Buy famous wines in poor vintages. World-class wine producers have to ruthlessly cull out poor grapes in off vintages to make excellent wines. Still yet, off vintages are priced lower than wines from an ideal growing season. Their loss is your gain.

Remember, you can be a wine collector and not have to pay a lot for the pleasure. Follow the 6 strategies provided and they will give you affordable drinking now, and in the years ahead.
About the Author
The author, Dr Proactive Randy Gilbert, host at Inside Success Radio, interviewed Christine Ansbacher, a leading authority on wine tasting, toasting, buying, storing, and enjoying wine. Get her free audio on Instant Wine Savvy at http://InstantWineSavvy.com
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