I recently had the chance to sit down and chat with 8 very different wine collectors. I asked them what they wish someone told them about collecting wine right when they started. What advice could have truly made a difference?
Together, this group racks up over 150 years of wine collecting experience from all over the world. Throughout their journeys, they each learned valuable lessons. And they’ve all built unique and impressive collections.
All wine collectors agreed that collecting wine has been worth it, despite the errors their young and eager selves made. These are the lessons they learned the hard way.
“Ease into it, there is always more wine.”
-Keith Herrick, Consignment and Imports Manager
The best advice to keep in mind when starting your wine collecting adventure is go slow and don’t rush your purchases. Your focus and taste will change with time, and that’s good. It’s fun to think about what wine will be interesting in 10 years when you first get started. But don’t feel tempted to buy a whole bunch of it right off the bat. If you try to grow your collection by volume from the start, you’re guaranteed to accumulate a large amount of wine that is of lower quality. There is always good wine to drink. It’s a matter of timing and accumulating knowledge. There’s no substitute for time, so be patient.
“Do your research on the seller.”
-Rosemary Gray, General Manager, Domaine DC
Some of wine collectors surveyed regretted taking chances on “deals” from questionable retailers. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Do your research because impulse buys rarely work out. Whether the seller be your neighborhood wine shop, an online retailer or through a wine auction, you can never know too much about what you’re spending your money on.
When buying from a newer retailer, be skeptical of the hype surrounding their wine offerings. Remember that reputations are earned over time. This is especially true in the wine industry. Do yourself a favor and check secondary market pricing on older vintages before paying top dollar for new releases. Your wallet and palate will thank you.
“Be aware of the timeline so that you drink wines at their peak.”
If you’ve ever forgotten about a wine you stored for a special occasion, you’re certainly not alone. While it’s true that some wine gets better with age, once those wines hit their peak, they start to lose their value and tastiness. Organizing your cellar can be a huge help in knowing when your wine is ready to drink. To start, research the average and appropriate storage length for wines from different regions. Then, organize your cellar to reflect it.
Some advice from Peter Molinari, General Manager of Domaine Napa, is to buy a mix of wines that are ready to drink now and wines that you won’t touch for a while. Using a cellar management software like CellarTracker or VinoCellar can help you keep track of what you have and when it’s ready to be opened.
“Make sure you’re storing your collection properly.”
-Brian McCann, Marketing Manager, Domaine Saint Louis
The most important part of having a wine collection is storing it in a suitable environment. The ideal space is roughly 55° Fahrenheit with 70% humidity. Also, avoid light by storing it in a darker environment.
It seems like an innocent mistake, but proper storage is one thing that every collector needs to consider. If you’re not caring for your wine properly, you’re wasting your time and money.
According to Chris Zago, General Manager of Domaine Saint Louis, “The aspect of collecting wine that makes it worthwhile is the pleasure of enjoying delicious wine with secondary and tertiary aromas and flavors that only come with proper storage.”
Proper wine storage is a critical practice that many collectors in the early stages learn the hard way. This goes for the size of your space as well. There’s always too much wine and not enough room. Investing in a wine storage space is one solution to keeping your wine in the proper environment. You can also save space by using a wine storage system in your house, our favorite is Weinbox.
“Have confidence in your palate.”
-Marc Lazar, Founder of Domaine Storage
Buy what you know you like, not what you want to like. There are so many spectacular winemakers out there, many of whom are not well-known in the mainstream wine conversation.
If you fall in love with a wine that is reasonably priced, trust your palate. The odds are that if you really like it, you’re probably not alone. It will likely get more expensive and you’ll have the unfortunate regret of not buying it when you had the opportunity. It’s a true joy to share the wines you love. And chances are that if you really like something, it will give you great pleasure to see others react to it as well. Like what you like and be proud of it.
“Keep an eye out for passion projects.”
-Peter Molinari, General Manager, Domaine Napa
Winemaking is truly an art. Those who have dedicated their whole lives to the craft often fall victim to the classic struggle of an artist; sell what is popular to make money or try to sell what was born from their own creativity. Many collectors who are new to the scene don’t always realize that some of their favorite winemakers work on unique concepts that tend to live in the shadows of more well-known vintages. They call these their passion projects.
“Find reputable winemakers you trust and then find out what their ‘passion project’ label is,” says Peter Molinari, General Manager of Domaine Napa. “They are often superior wines, made with heart, and offered at a low cost.”
“Don’t feel pressured to buy entire allocations.”
-Gordon Smith, Warehouse Manager, Domaine New York
Warehouse Manager of Domaine New York, Gordon Smith’s best advice is this, “Buy fewer bottles from more producers. It’s okay to skip releases or vintages!”
A lot of collectors feel at times like they must buy entire seasonal allocations. Or at least as much of it as they can afford. That’s not true, the goal should actually be to diversify your collection as much as possible. Spending your entire budget on one producer limits your collection and your taste buds. Don’t go overboard with maximizing the allocation purchases. You’re doing yourself a much bigger favor by branching out, trying new things and expanding your palate.
“Don’t drink your entire collection.”
-Nicki Ball, Advisory General Manager, Domaine Saint Louis
One mistake that we’ve heard from many collectors is that they drank their whole collection before it had the chance to grow. The best advice we can offer here is to buy some decent table wine to sip on when the occasion doesn’t call for opening something grander. The point of a wine collection should always be to enjoy it, so find a good middle ground where you can still open some “special” bottles every now and then, without draining your cellar.
“The wine is irrelevant, it’s all about the experience and the people you share it with.”
-Brian McCann, Marketing Manager, Domaine Saint Louis
At the end of the day, wine has been a staple of gathering and socializing since the beginning of history. Every wine has a unique story to tell, just like the people who drink it. This advice goes for everyone. Whether you’re a seasoned collector who has been able to relate to these common pitfalls or you’re just starting to dip your toes into the world of wine collecting, remember to enjoy your collection with loved ones.
Moving a wine collection is no simple task. There are a ton of logistics that go into the preparation and then the move itself. While it’s no walk in the park, it’s absolutely worth it to take moving a wine collection seriously.
We sat down to talk with Joe Quigle, General Manager of Domaine Transit. He said it’s critical for people to keep in mind that wine moving takes planning and organization. It’s the only way to guarantee your wine stays safe and cool in transit.
Also, we asked him about the most common requests he receives. “I hear it all the time. People want speed.” The problem is that when done properly, moving a wine collection is never speedy. In the world where we expect almost instant delivery, it’s hard to explain the opposite. “I spend a lot of time on the phone talking to people. I let them know that wine moving is like wine collecting. Good things are worth waiting for.” As wine collectors stressed by a move, we can forget that wine is temperamental. It does not respond well to being rushed.
Some wines are better with age, but all wines are better if moved with patience and attention to detail.
There are some clear preventative measures to take:
- Keep your collection at a cool, constant temperature
- Keep your collection out of sunlight
- Protect your wine with proper packaging and sturdy boxes
If you’re up for moving your wine collection yourself, you’ll want to take the following steps.
Think About the All The Moving Parts
Before even thinking about your wine, think about where it is. You need to consider your surroundings.
Ask yourself the following:
- What will you need to navigate during the move?
- Are there stairs? How many flights?
- What is parking like at my current and future home?
- How far is your wine is from the moving vehicle?
Joe said, “Each part of the move adds complexity. You start thinking you can move 10-15 cases of wine yourself. Then, you realize you’re packing, walking upstairs, down the driveway and into a van that’s too small.”
We asked Chris Zago, General Manager of Domaine Saint Louis, about moving wine. “I always tell the new team members to pace themselves. They sprint out of the gates, and then they’re exhausted. The worst part of is letting them know they’re less than a third done.”
Determining how will get your wine from origin to destination is the first step. Once you figure out how, you should ask yourself, “Am I going to need help to do this?”
Take an Accurate Account of Your Inventory
According to Joe, nothing can slow down a move like a lack of preparation. “Everything starts with a great plan. Unless you use software, most people don’t know exactly how many bottles and cases they have.”
If you’re short on time or moving yourself, packing your own wine is hard enough. You don’t want to have to run out to get more boxes or tape. Since cardboard wine boxes for moving aren’t on every corner, your move might slow down by days.
While it may seem like common sense, we find that people underestimate all the time. “We always bring extra boxes. There’s usually wine people forget to count. Sometimes it’s a few bottles, other times it’s 10 or more cases,” said Joe.
Before you move, get organized.
Count the actual number of bottles.
Make a list in Excel or use software like CellarTracker.
Determine what types and shapes of bottles you have:
- Champagne or oversized?
- Magnum or large format?
- Riesling or taller bottles?
Doing this will let you know exactly how many boxes you need to order and pack. Also, you’ll be able to select the proper box for each type of bottle. This work on the front-end will help you unload and unpack with ease. And if you need to get a quote for wine moving, you’ll be able to get an accurate estimate.
Determine The Value of Your Wine Collection
Once you know exactly what you have, you’ll want to know how much it’s worth. Wine is expensive and fragile. That’s why most moving companies won’t move it.
It’s often that we get the call while the moving company is in the driveway. Joe said, “It’s always tough when you hear from someone in a bind. They assumed their movers would take care of everything. We’ve been able to help out on many last-minute jobs.”
Additionally, most homeowners policies don’t cover wine during transit. Double-check your policy to make sure you’re covered.
We know the value of your collection, and that’s why we offer wine insurance on every move. It’s an extra level of peace of mind because of the added level of protection.
To determine the value of your collection, start with an up-to-date inventory. There are several platforms that can help you organize and estimate your collection. If you have a lot of wine, you can hire a third party to conduct an appraisal. This option isn’t as cost-effective as doing it yourself, but there is less room for error. Plus, you’ll have time to focus on the rest of your wine move.
The Equipment You Need
When you’re moving your wine collection, your number one priority should be safety. Your first line of defense is the cardboard wine box. Unfortunately, not all wine boxes are equal.
To find a proper box for moving wine, you’ll want to look at its thickness. I talked to our Marketing Manager, Brian McCann, who learned all about boxes when he worked in a retail shop.
“When you’re in wine retail, you start to look at boxes in a different light. You admired the nice ones. After we’d fawn over them, we’d keep the great ones somewhere special in the store. We’d use them in displays or for repacking nicer wines for our best customers.”
I asked Brian if they would ever give boxes to customers.
“Sure, but with discretion,” said Brian. “People would walk in and say, ‘Can I have a box? I’m moving.’ Often times, they wouldn’t even buy anything. They were pretty much guaranteed to get the worst box.”
I asked if there was a way to get a better box. He answered, “If someone was buying nice wine, was a great customer or was polite, we would get them a better box. But most of the time, it would be whatever was on hand.”
Getting The Perfect Box
Most of the boxes you see in a wine store are flimsy. After all, the box is an extra cost to the winery. Higher priced wine usually comes in a better box, so look for a box from one of the more expensive brands.
Another thing to remember is that most boxes rely on the bottles to provide strength. Brian said, “Yes, there are boxes that make it from all over the world to a retail shop. But many seem to disintegrate on unboxing.” A box that’s strong enough for moving should not bend or break when moved. It should also be able to support boxes stacked on top of it.
While you might want to use a standard cardboard box, you should reconsider. Most of those boxes don’t do well with heavy bottles. And without inserts or dividers, you’ll have to wrap the bottles separately. If packing wine yourself, Joe recommends using boxes and inserts specifically for wine. This can make a big difference in protecting your wine from danger during transit.
Another choice would be to use wine shipping boxes. These are expensive and bulky, but they definitely do a great job of protecting your wine. If your collection is less than two cases, this might be a great option.
The last option would be to buy Domaine boxes. We’ve used our boxes on thousands on wine moves and everyday in our facilities. As a result, we built Domaine boxes to last. You can keep your boxes for another wine move or extra storage in your new cellar. Unlike wine shippers, they take up less space when not in use and they are more affordable.
Time to Ship
Now that you’re prepared, you can determine your shipping method.
You’re ready to ship when you know:
- How much wine you are trying to move
- The value of your wine
- Number of boxes you need
Depending on the size, there are three different ways you can ship your wine collection. Each has its own benefits, so please read on.
This option is perfect for anyone who is shipping either 2 cases or less. If this is the case, you will need the following:
- Shipper boxes
- Appropriate shipping labels
- Someone to sign for your wine when it’s delivered
It is possible to have your boxes temperature-controlled when using a third-party shipper. But it’s not guaranteed that they will be refrigerated the entire time. If you’re only moving a few bottles, this can be a cost-effective method.
PickUp and Drop Off at a Domaine Facility
If you live near a Domaine facility, we offer a pickup and drop off option. We’ve done this for many customers with smaller collections. We can help you move to or from places near the following cities:
- St. Louis
- New York
- Washington, DC
All you have to do is pack your boxes of wine and drop them off at any Domaine facility. Then, we will transport your collection to the Domaine facility of your choice. Once your wine arrives, you have 30 days after delivery to pick it up.
This is a great, affordable option for those willing to do a little bit of work. Plus, your wine stays temperature-controlled as soon as you drop it off at our facility. After it arrives, our wine professionals handle it until you’re ready to pick it up.
If you have 10 or more cases of wine, you’ll want to consider using Domaine Transit. We can assist you with everything for moving your wine collection. From packing to unpacking, our team can make your wine move easy, and even enjoyable.
We take care of everything and ensure your wine is protected throughout the entire move. We pack it into a refrigerated vehicle and bring it to our warehouse. There, we can perform a complete inventory of your collection. Finally, it’s shipped to your destination in a refrigerated vehicle and unpacked by our team.
Regardless of how you choose to move your wine collection, be sure to take care and precaution. Have any questions or additional tips you’d like to add? Comment below or contact us directly.
When you visit Domaine, chances are you won’t be able to catch Chris kicking back with a nice glass of Burgundy. I had a hard enough time tracking him down, and his desk is 10 feet away from mine. When I did get a few moments with Chris, he was eager to chat about how he started in wine and share his work experience.
Chris has been the General Manager of our Saint Louis facility for two years. Like many of our clients, he’s passionate, if not obsessed, with fine and rare wine.
Before joining Domaine, Chris worked in hospitality since his early 20s. But he’s been around wine his entire life. At a young age, Chris’s parents sent him to Italy. For several years, he lived with his grandparents. He learned about the culture and their family traditions. And while Chris became fluent in Italian, he also ignited a passion for wine.
A Day In The Life of Chris
As the General Manager, Chris works with clients to match services with their needs. Storing, moving, growing, selling, and enjoying, Chris knows it all. He bleeds Domaine blue.
“Since I started, the work we do has fascinated me. Our tagline says that we serve wine collectors. That’s something I put into practice every day,” said Chris.
Chris enjoys building relationships with each client. He takes time to learn about their preferences and watch their buying patterns. “Working in the warehouse helps me learn about our clients. When shipments come in, I’m as excited as our clients for the new arrivals. I can’t wait to share the news!” It’s in these personal touches that Chris leans on his time in hospitality.
Attention to Details
“I was successful in the hospitality industry from the beginning, because I got to know my clients. I was eager to please. I knew clients’ kids’ names, what clients did for work, what clients liked to drink.” Chris continued to say that Domaine clients are like members and guests in past jobs. “Wherever you go, people are paying for service and experience. And everyone’s expectations are high.”
Chris also realized early on that success at Domaine lies in the details. “The difference in a vintage or designation can dramatically affect the price. So, you have to be mindful of everything on a label.“
When I asked Chris where he gained this attention to detail, he shared a story. “In my previous life, every Wednesday, I would spend my whole day setting up one game of Mahjong for the same 30 ladies.”
While he’s yet to set up a Mahjong table at Domaine Saint Louis, we can imagine it pristine and precise.
Connecting The Dots On Service
Chris brought everything he learned in the hospitality industry to Domaine. He gives his undivided attention to clients and listens for the details.
I asked Chris what his favorite questions are to ask clients. He said, “I always like to know how they started. Then, I’ll ask whether they enjoy handling and organizing their inventory.” Chris continued, “This starts to paint a picture of which level of service is best for each client.” Based on their needs, Chris recommends the appropriate storage options.
If clients enjoy being hands-on, he steers them towards Standard Storage. While this option includes fewer services, clients can add them as needed.
“A lot times, I’ll ask clients if they are already tracking their collection with software. If not, I recommend a one-time inventory.”
As for clients who want hassle-free storage, including receiving and inventory, Chris recommends Premier. “People are often surprised to learn we offer Premier. For those who want to enjoy collecting without all the tasks involved, it’s a great option.” Many Premier clients enjoy working with Chris, and he’s helped them source and explore new wines.
Maintaining Peace of Mind
Chris has earned the trust of our clients, and of our team. Until recently, he was the only full-time employee at the Saint Louis facility. Over the years, Chris developed processes and set a new standard. He had always hoped to build a team that would maintain his caliber of customer service.
Recently, his hard work paid off. Chris welcomed Joe Chambers as the Warehouse Manager in the Saint Louis facility in August. They worked together in the past. When looking for a trustworthy and reliable team member, Chris knew Joe was the perfect option.
“The first thing that Chris told me about working at Domaine, ” said Joe, “is that we’re here for one reason. Our clients’ peace of mind.” In Chris’s opinion, this means always exceeding expectations. “Our clients are trusting us with something of value. So, it’s crucial for us to nurture our relationships.”
What does the future look like for Chris?
Moving forward, Joe will maintain Chris’s high standards and manage the cellar. Chris will continue to focus on client relationships. Beyond Saint Louis, Chris will be growing the sales of Domaine’s products and services. This past summer, he spent a few weeks on the road selling cardboard wine boxes and Weinbox across the United States.
For Chris, his motivation will always be going above and beyond client expectations. That makes him excited to evolve his role in sales. “It’s nice knowing that our products and services are something collectors need. It’s storage, but it’s a whole lot more. Our moving services, organization, custom cardboard, Weinbox. They’re all solutions to problems in wine collecting.”
If you want to get in touch with Chris and learn about all the solutions Domaine has to offer, contact us and we’ll be in touch soon.
All wine collectors make it to this point sooner or later.
Your bottles are sitting unbothered in their dark nooks at 55 degrees and 70 percent humidity. The dust is accumulating because you’re patiently waiting for them to mature. Meanwhile, you’re eagerly awaiting several cases to add to your collection after a successful trip to Napa. There’s one problem. You don’t know if you have enough space to fit it all anymore.
Whether you’re storing your collection in a home cellar or a wine storage facility, space is extremely valuable. If you’re starting to notice that your storage is almost at capacity, it’s time to rethink how you’re storing your wine.
The solution to your cramped wine storage is the Domaine Cardboard Wine Box
You need to organize your wine in boxes that are built for wine storage. This way you aren’t left digging through crumpled cardboard and styrofoam. The Domaine wine box can fit every size or shape of wine bottle, standing up or laying on their side. They’re thicker than typical boxes and they can be stacked without being crushed.
In some cases, the reason that wine storage becomes difficult is because of the variety in bottle shapes and sizes. The Domaine wine boxes are built with all types of wine bottles in mind. They’re tall enough to accommodate the height of longer bottles such as California Cabernet and German Riesling bottles.
Perhaps, you’ve been using traditional wooden wine boxes to store your collection. Those are great for stacking and organizing, but they’re more difficult to work with. This is especially true when you’re on the hunt for a specific bottle. If you’ve been using wine shipping boxes with styrofoam shippers, you’re losing valuable storage space. Our boxes are nearly half the size.
Domaine Boxes are also easy to travel with. It makes packing and unpacking wines a breeze, especially when traveling to a holiday party or wine event. We use our boxes in our facilities everyday to prepare wine for pickups, deliveries and long-term storage.
- March 12, 2013
Domaine Wine Storage is pleased to participate as a Premier Cru Sponsor of La Paulée de New York. As a gift to attendees of the Gala Dinner, we offer complimentary pre-event refrigerated wine storage as well as refrigerated delivery of wines to the Gala Dinner site on Saturday, March 9, 2013. read more