A corking investment: The expert’s guide to buying wine

How to drink yourself into an early retirement...

The story on wine investment doesn’t begin on the balance sheet but on the tongue, and every collection starts with a single sip. Instead of a cold, hard interest in speculation, most of us discover fine wine through friends, family, or food. And then the game’s afoot. The first few cases of wine that bought for future drinking are the seeds from which the branches of a collection grow. Tastings, dinners, parties — all of these fuel a thirst for knowledge (and, of course, a thirst full stop.)

Then follow the subscriptions to websites of wine critics, and an enchantment by their florid prose and elemental descriptions of new releases. These inspire the collector to expand their portfolio of wines further, and push their drinking windows ever longer into the future. At some point, buying becomes strategic, and the first leg of the collector’s journey is complete. A collector, after all, is a consumer who buys fine wine strategically.

As personal knowledge expands, attitude to risk lessens. Logically, most collectors justify spending more and more money on wines by focusing on the probability that their value will increase in the future. But there are only two real reasons to buy wine strategically: scarcity and value. You either buy today because you believe that a wine will be hard to find in the future (in which case there’s a probability of price appreciation where demand is in place), or you buy today because you think it’s going to be better value now than in a few years’ time.

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