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james laube's wine flights

Drink Your Cellar? Or Start One Now?

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Oct 1, 2008 2:50pm ET

This is a good time to have a cellar, along with cash under the mattress.

I don’t think most people collect wines and build cellars for times of uncertainty or fiscal restraint. But it sure helps if you have a cache of wine you can tap.

I didn’t start a cellar with this kind of economy in mind. I started mine to let wines age and study how they changed and evolved. Many of those lessons I’ve passed along to you--that is, you’re better off most of the time to drink your wines on the younger side rather than the older side, hoping that time in the bottle will lead to superior wine-drinking experiences. And it’s wiser, too, to let your friends build elaborate cellars and then nourish those friendships.

Still, having a cellar right now allows you to drink what you’ve bought and already paid for, presumably at a lower price than wines are going for today. And I’ll be going through mine in the coming days and weeks, hoping to find some overlooked gems and writing about what I find.

It’s also a good time to start a cellar if you have the cash and can stomach the market gyrations.

I don’t imagine most of you are planning cellars right now. Still, there are probably more wine deals to be found at retail and in auction markets than you would typically find.

My guess is most of you are staying put, and if you have a cellar, looking at that as one reliable source of already-paid-for wine. Still, maybe there are those of you who are eyeing this market as a buying opportunity, thinking that this might be the time to see where the bargains are, putting aside wines and knowing that they’ll be there when you need them.

Patrick Mullane
san mateo, ca —  October 1, 2008 8:54pm ET
James.....You're absolutely correct. These uncertain times present a wonderful opportunity to make the effort to cull the herd, and open new space for expansion in the cellar. In the spirit of the coming season, I would like to offer my hand in friendship, and help you root through your cellar in search of buried gems. Another set of eyes never hurts........Patrick
Jason Thompson
Foster City, CA —  October 1, 2008 9:37pm ET
I totally agree. I have a small cellar (300+ bottles) that I started in 2000-2001. I will definitely be buying less wine this year than I have in the past. I will start to drink wines that I have held onto for a number of years. Hopefully I will drink through my remaining 1997 Napa cabs (3-4 left) and I will also look to finish my 1999 Napa cabs (6-12 left).

I will also be looking for better values in general and spacing out purchases to make sure that I do not gain any bottles (net increase) over the next 6 months. Bargains will be out there, especially from mid-priced wines in the most recent vintages (2006 Bordeaux, 2004, 2005, 2006 Napa Cabs/Merlots, Australian everything...). My recommendation would be to only by things below the MSRP as prices will continue to come down. I will also drop off some mailing lists that are not as hard to find on the open market and only stay on the ones that are highly allocated (stop ordering Merus, W.H. Smith, Paul Hobbs, Peter Michael, even cutback on Kistler...continue to buy Kosta Browne, Schrader, Gemstone, Shibumi).
Jeffrey Ghi
New York —  October 1, 2008 10:03pm ET
i'd feel that this is probably the time to look at the 05-08 bordeauxs. It just makes no sense that younger bordeauxs are > $$$ then older ones. Drink through the ones you have. Pick up the agers.

James, I too like Patrick, also offer my pair of eyes in search of any buried gems in your cellar =)
John Shuey
Carrollton, TX —  October 2, 2008 10:23am ET
I certainly have cut back on my purchasing...but then again my 600 btl cellar is pretty full. I am, however, picking up a few 2000 and 2003 Bordeaux at prices at or below what they were on release and way below what the 2005's are going for. Always a bargain shopper, I am being fussier than usual.
Scott Warner
South Bend, IN —  October 2, 2008 1:44pm ET
We have a very small cellar, around 80 bottles, at this time. My wife and I were wondering if you would have any specific ideas for the 2003 vintage that might be reasonable adds to our cellar. We picked this year because it is the year that we got married. We are always on the lookout for good deals whether at our favorite shop or at online auctions. As you can see we are just starting out and don't mind contributing to the economy if the price is right.
John B Vlahos
Cupertino Ca. —  October 2, 2008 2:46pm ET
Most if not all reds released today need tine to improve to reach their potential. Cabs usually neeed six to ten years, pinots five to eight years and zins four to six years. So if you want to enjoy wine at its best, you have to put it aside and wait. I find its worth the effort.
James Laube
Napa, CA —  October 2, 2008 4:22pm ET
Scott, depends on what kinds of wines you like. If you're looking for Cabernet, which was very good but irregular that year, or Bordeaux, which was great, there are plenty of good choices. I'd look through our database and search online. One thing you don't want to overlook is storage. If you plan to age wine it has to be kept cool.

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