• Melissa L. Smith

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Collecting Wine

As I work tirelessly on launching something major in the next two weeks, and having just finished a presentation on The Valuation and Appraisal of Wine Collections for the San Francisco Bar Association, I figured I would go over some of the most common mistakes that I see collectors make.




  1. Not investing in proper storage - your biggest initial investment should be wine storage. Be it a home cellar, a wine refrigerator, or offsite storage specifically designed to store wine in a secure environment. If wine isn’t stored properly it loses its value and compromises its drinkability. Bonus: Never buy a wine refrigerator with shelves that slide out. It is unbelievable to me that whoever designed these did not take multiple bottle sizes into account, which means the labels get scraped, the bottles get wedged in, and inevitably shelves will literally fall without warning. This has happened to me so many times that I’ve come close to not working with clients that have these style refrigerators because of all of the issues that they cause. Le Cache is the only brand that I recommend for wine refrigerators.

  2. Not having an accurate inventory - This is necessary for so many reasons. Not knowing what you have means wines fall through the cracks and don’t get drunk when they are supposed to...leading to them getting dumped when they are discovered because they are past their prime, or worse, when disaster strikes you have no record of what you have. At the bare minimum I recommend doing a full inventory every quarter to make sure you are staying on top of your purchases and consumption. It never ceases to amaze me when I ask collectors how they know what they have, and they tap their head indicating "it's all in here." Face palm.

  3. Not keeping the wine collection organized - Organization is key to knowing what you have, and when to drink it. Putting random bottles in random slots means losing track of what you have. You should be able to walk into your wine cellar or open the doors to your wine refrigerator and know exactly where to find the right bottle at a moment's notice. Wine clubs can be a major source of disarray, as well as seasonal shipments from retailers and auction houses. Having a plan for consumption and growth is imperative.

  4. Taking wine out of the OWC or removing the OTP - These keep the wines in pristine condition, it can add 10% - 20% of the value if the wines are in the original packaging. Alternatively, never put random bottles inside of a branded wooden case, or cardboard case. Assumptions can be made of what is inside, and I've seen this go both ways. Better to put them in new, unmarked cardboard wine boxes and mark the outside (preferably with barcodes or on paper that can be removed and updated)

  5. Not having a wine collection insured - As a Californian, I've seen people lose entire historic collections to fires, floods, earthquakes, power outages, and theft. In fact, appraising wine collections for insurance companies has become a massive part of what I do. People assume that their home insurance covers their wine collection. This is not the case. You have to have wine specific insurance or a rider for your collection. I am not affiliated with them, but have found InsureMyWine.com to be the best option for wine collections, and one of the only options as most insurance companies refuse to insure wine these days.

If you are interested in learning more about wine collecting, get on the mailing list ASAP. I will be launching my project and making it available only to subscribers until December 1, when the price will go up substantially.

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