• Matthew Hemming of Averys tells all

    Like most people interested in wine, I like to serve my friends nice bottles when they come over for dinner.  Occasionally they ask me about the wines we’re drinking but often with a certain look in their eyes – they know I’d love to tell them but they’re secretly hoping they won’t get the ‘Full Monty’ wine bore answer.

    I’ve learned that one response guaranteed to get puzzled looks or barely-concealed rolling of the eyes, is that we’re drinking a bottle from my cellar.  Wine Cellar, particularly when capitalised, seems to provoke images of Harry Potter-esque subterranean cathedrals whose walls are lined with endless stacks of dusty and mould-encrusted bottles.

    Anyone who’s been to my flat will know that it’s rather lacking in the cellar department.  In fact, outside of Oxbridge colleges, stately homes and Bordeaux chateaux these traditional cellars are pretty rare amongst today’s wine collectors.  Japan is one of the world’s most advanced wine markets yet it is dominated by by-the-bottle sales, rather than case purchases, simply because of the lack of domestic storage space in the densely populated cities.

    Today, any collection of wine can constitute a cellar, be it kept in a professional bonded warehouse, under the stairs, in a wine cabinet in your home or even a traditional underground cellar.  How these collections are built varies tremendously and there are certainly no hard and fast rules. 

    Typically, people who are just discovering wine collecting grow their cellars organically, buying interesting bottles here, there and everywhere.  This can result in a fabulously eclectic, if somewhat haphazard, wine collection and part of the fun will be unearthing forgotten bottles from the depths of a mixed case in the years to come.  Some of the best cellars I know have been built like this and give their owners huge pleasure. 

    Other people lack the necessary time to trawl around wine merchants or research every vintage in every wine region.  Whether the aim is to build a cellar to drink in the years to come or if they’re looking to invest in fine wine, one option might be to delegate the purchasing to a merchant via a subscription Cellar Plan.  Many wine merchants offer these plans and specialist fine wine advisors build their clients’ collections with regular discretionary purchases.

    Personally, I think the research is a big part of the fun of collecting wine but this won’t be for everybody.  Neither is it the case that those subscribing to Wine Plans will miss out on the fun – hopefully even the investors will find room to drink the odd case, so they’re merely deferring their research and discovery to the consumption stage. 

    Here are my top 3 tips for those building a cellar:

    • Find a wine merchant or merchants that you trust and enjoy dealing with.  Whether you’re buying investment-grade wine or creating a drinking cellar of your favourite wines, it’s crucial to find a trustworthy merchant.  It’s invaluable to have someone who gets to know your tastes and requirements and can make recommendations – even the keenest wine collector is unlikely to taste as widely as a good merchant.

    • Buy the great vintages but don’t ignore the less fashionable years.  This will supply you with wines for earlier drinking, while the top stuff matures, and also improve your ‘allocations’ of wines in the most sought-after years.  There are always gems to be found in so-called duff vintages, this is where trusting your merchant comes to the fore.

    • Pull corks!  At the end of the day, even the most prestigious and rareified chateaux make wine for drinking.  Even if you’re buying purely for investment, take delivery of the odd case to see what all the fuss is about – after all, the profit on all that Lafite will more than fund you and your friends having a drink of something less expensive.  Collectors hoarding away cases for years and years are not only missing out on delicious and vivaciously fruity young wines but also risk keeping them too long, only to find a wine’s well into its dotage when it’s too late – so get your corkscrew out from time to time.

    Matthew Hemming is the Fine Wine Manager & Burgundy Buyer for Averys

    Contact Matthew on 01275 811107 or email matthewhemming@averys.com

    Visit the Averys website www.averys.com