Guide: How to begin a wine collection with just £500

Always been interested in drinking wine, but want to take the next step into collecting?
Been wanting to collect for a while, but not really sure where to begin?
Want to save a bit of money and get maximum value out of each bottle?
If the answer to any of the above is "yes", then read on!


Collecting wine can mean a number of different things to different people but it certainly is not the preserve of an older generation that have plenty of spare cash to tie up in a few trophy bottles that need decades to mature.
 
The truth is, with just a few hundred pounds anyone can start a collection and begin to make their wine budget stretch much further in the medium to long term.
 
Because of our relatively short modern wine making tradition here in the UK, our mentality tends to be different to that of those from the more historically significant regions on the continent: the key is buying to replace rather than buying to drink. The idea being that you always have some bottles maturing, gradually becoming ready to drink, then buying becomes an exercise of replacing the newly mature wines with younger, freshly released bottles. There are a number of advantages to buying into this philosophy;
 

  • after you've built up a little bit of a collection, you should never find yourself in the terrifying position of running out of specially chosen, great wines

  • you build a bit more of a connection with each of the growers and get to sample the wines at various points during the ageing process - which is a fascinating way to learn about evolution and the effects of bottle age.

  • and lastly but certainly not least, you can save a fair bit of cash from buying at release price: this obviously depends on the exact wine but the average saving tends to be between 20 and 30 per cent.

 
What is worth remembering is that this is absolutely not a binary choice: most will begin to collect whilst also buying bottles for drinking, then gradually, as the collection comes together and covers a more broad range of areas, the need to regularly buy drinking wines decreases.
 
Just to be completely transparent, because we're talking about En Primeur wines here, all prices are listed in bond (full guide here), meaning that £500 is excluding duty and VAT, so depending on how many bottles you choose (it's likely to be either 24 or 30), the total once removed from bond will be between £665 and £680. It’s important to note here that the VAT is payable on the original sale price of the wine, NOT its current market value when you get it delivered, so another saving!
 
Just to show what £500 total looks like, I have also made a suggestion that comes to an inc. duty and VAT total of £500.
 
Another thing to be clear about, is that Burgundy is certainly not cheap. Demand has continually increased over the last decade or so, particularly at the top end. Because the areas for producing great quality fruit are limited, production is also limited, meaning prices have had to increase. This does not mean that great value is  impossible to find, it just means that careful selection and choices becomes even more important: indeed, higher prices do not always mean better wine. That’s where the knowledge of a wine merchant comes in very handy; someone who can listen to your needs and suggest wines to fit your tastes and importantly your budget.
 
If there is a general theme to the selections below, it’s that I’ve highlighted the Bourgogne or village level wines of some of the great producers. This gives you assured levels of site selection, fruit harvesting and handling, with the all important élevage and winery processes being in the hands of someone who is not only capable, but one of the true masters of the balancing act between art and science that is Burgundian winemaking.
 
Another key to getting the most for your money in Burgundy is by selecting wines from the top producers of less-known, or up and coming villages / appellations. There are the obvious areas tat attract such a premium these days that only a handful of people can even consider putting them in their cellars, whereas, due to increasing expertise and climate change (amongst other factors), certain areas under the right conditions, are beginning to show real promise where only a few years ago they would have been overlooked. Highlighted examples below include Saint Romain (promoted former Hautes-Côtes) in the Côte de Beaune, and Mercurey and Rully in the Côtes Challonaise.
 
The below examples are exactly that: some cases that I think best display how you can maximise the spending of £500 with a good balance of whites and reds that display a range of the really exciting 2018 vintage. None of them require years and years to mature, but all will be intriguing at any time over the next one to five years.
 

Example 1: £500 in bond contains 30 bottles  (12 x whites & 18 x reds)

Domaine de Montille Bourgogne Blanc, 2018 £102 / 6
Brian Sieve is the winemaker at Domaine de Montille, who Nathan and Tom have this year given the ultimate vote of confidence in taking care of our members’ Hospices de Beaune Barrels (full story here). The Chardonnay here ages in 600 litre big old oak barrels, with lots of lees stirring, giving superb texture to the perfectly ripe fruit from some excellent sites, including a parcel of declassified Montagny. A slice of excellence at a very affordable price!
Edouard Delaunay Saint Romain (white), 2018 £132 / 6
Edouard Delaunay oversees this historic estate with former ties to Domaine de la Romanée Conti. As a bit of an outlying village over to the western edge of the Cote de Beaune, Saint Romain is a prime location for whites in warmer years due to its added elevation - you get so much quality for your money in 2018.
Albert Bichot Bourgogne Cote d'Or Pinot Noir 'Secret de Famille', 2018 £72 / 6
Really lovely red with fruit exclusively from the Côte de Nuits, that's juicy, generous and an absolute bargain. Hardly a surprise from the always reliable Albert Bichot, but the 2018 is looking like a particularly good buy.
Domaine Duroché Bourgogne Rouge, 2018 £105 / 6
Top producer using Gevrey Chambertin fruit, unfined and unfiltered. All Duroché labels are highly sought after and the top labels are always some of the first to get completely cleared out every vintage. I think I'll leave the description of this one to Tom: "Wow – what a superstar, this presses all the right buttons and sets the tone for Pierre’s wines this vintage: purity, focus and tension, red plum juiciness, and some further depths that will develop. This is irresistibly attractive, delicious from end to end with a vibrant finish."
Domaine Francois Raquillet Mercurey Rouge Vieilles Vignes, 2018 £96 / 6
Probably the best known village in the Côtes Chalonnaise. Slightly rustic and another cracking value wine which was one of our customer favourites from 2017. Francois Raquillet is 11th generation winemaker in Mercurey - widely seen as the best producer in the village – using old vines and low yields to achieve such an impressively solid red.
Total £507 In Bond
 

Example 2: £500 inc. VAT contains 24 bottles (12 x whites & 12 x reds)

Domaine Paul et Marie Jacqueson Rully Blanc, 2018 £87 / 6 Not unlike Saint Romain in that the location favours warmer vintages - lively and fresh Chalonnaise white that punches well above its price point. The Domaine is run by the third generation of the Jacqueson’s, who hand pick everything. This village Rully is made using 20% new oak, which adds some well judges power and intensity to the zippy citrus and apple freshness.
Domaine Philippe Colin Bourgogne Blanc, 2018 £75 / 6
Made using fruit from two separate parcels, expertly blended for balance: one at altitude in St. Aubin for minerality and freshness, the other in Chassagne that provides power and richness, all aged in large old oak tonneau. A real Chardonnay wizard!
Domaine de Montille Bourgogne Rouge, 2018 £105 / 6
Great Pinot, with lots of crunchy berries and fresh, ripe red fruits with a touch of spice - top notch Bourgogne. As mentioned before, we’re huge fans of the Domaine de Montille stable, and this is an expertly balanced blend of three separate parcels, each bringing their own characters to the table to create a wine that is most certainly greater than the sum of its already impressive individual parts.
Domaine Francois Raquillet Mercurey Rouge Vieilles Vignes, 2018 £96 / 6
Probably the best known village in the Côtes Chalonnaise. Slightly rustic and another cracking value wine which was one of our customer favourites from 2017. Francois Raquillet is 11th generation winemaker in Mercurey - widely seen as the best producer in the village – using old vines and low yields to achieve such an impressively solid red.
Total £363 In bond
Total, inc VAT: £499.83
 
Whether you’re in the market for one case or ten, the overall message would be that with some careful selection, the 2018 vintage is far too good for any wine lover to be missing out on!
 
Luke Gavin
Premier Crew Membership Manager