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Dear Dr. Vinny,
How many bottles of wine should I have in my cellar? I have 2,500 bottles, half in a wine cabinet and half in a professional storage facility. I’m 62 years old, and my wife and I usually split a bottle over dinner each night. The inconvenience of going to the storage facility has me thinking that 2,500 bottles is too many for me. What do you think?
—Todd A., from the Internet
Collecting wine can be an enjoyable and rewarding hobby, but only you can decide what the right number of bottles for your collection is. Let me see if I can offer some perspective—you’re not the first person to wonder about this!
I also had a period in my life where some of my wine was located in a different spot than my home, and I agree: It’s inconvenient. If you have to stop and think and plan and make an appointment … it’s as if the wine doesn’t even belong to you. On the other hand, professional long-term storage is great for people who really want to put bottles away and not touch them for a while.
If you’re usually splitting a bottle a day with your wife, and you have 2,500 bottles, the simple math says you can go nearly seven years without buying another bottle. But if you’re like most wine collectors, you’re still purchasing wine—we wine lovers just can’t help it; we’re always seeking out something new and exciting.
I think the first thing you should do, if you haven’t already, is to get a complete inventory of your collection. It might give you some helpful perspective to find out that half of your wines are more than 20 years old, or that one region is heavily represented, and that might help you plot out what to drink (or what to think about cutting back on).
One of the biggest traps with wine collecting is that we become a bit too precious about the collecting and a bit too tentative about the drinking. You don’t have to only open an anniversary wine on the actual anniversary; you can celebrate great moments whenever you’re thirsty. And an important, perfectly aged wine doesn’t have to be saved for white tablecloths and candles—it can elevate an after-dinner conversation or movie night into something more memorable. I like to surprise my friends with gems when we’re having a spontaneous meal. (It might be why I’m always invited back!)
If you decide to start scaling back, please do so joyfully. Make the holidays this year even more celebratory by pulling out many bottles from your cellar and inviting friends over. Host tastings. Give the bottles away as gifts. Enjoy your collection and share it with people you love. Or find local charities where you can donate the wine for raffle or auction items.
Finally, I have to give everyone the warning that older wines aren’t for everyone. Most wines taste wonderful upon release, and while some do reward aging (in cellars with optimal conditions), older wines taste different than younger ones, with fruit flavors fading into the background. Older wines aren’t for everyone, and that’s OK.
Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.