To Have and to Hoard
love wine, people assume you collect it. I don’t happen to collect
anything, but studies say fully one third of us do, be it Hummel figurines,
Coke memorabilia or Picassos. What was once a hobby for merchants
and kings is common sport now that today’s trash is so quickly
tomorrow’s collectible and fortunes are made and lost on Beanie
urge to collect seems to be hard-wired. Like other biological imperatives—-eating
and sex come to mind—-sometimes it goes haywire. It’s
a small step from a cellar of premier cru to a house full of cats
and old National Geographics.
the hoarding instinct developed to store food, but your average collectible
isn’t much use for surviving a long winter. It has a different
sort of value, in many cases nothing more than the glow implied by
where it’s been. A diaper soiled by Elvis! A ball hit out of
the field by Bubbie Schwartz! A bottle of Thomas Jefferson’s
(now undrinkable) Madeira! All magic totems, believed to bestow power
on the lucky owner.
bottles I keep on hand for guest ambushes and Colorado’s blue-law
Sundays not only lack provenance, but, like the CD’s scattered
around my house and car, they lack another crucial feature of collections:
theme. Sorting and organizing is an integral part of the compulsion.
You don’t lust for three widgets, or eight, but THE WHOLE SET.
Then they must be catalogued, compared and displayed.
are neither expensive nor rare, requirements if you’re collecting
for social status. A case or two of cult wines—-Napa bottlings
allocated to a tiny, exclusive list--certifies you as clever, well
connected or simply rich enough to play with the big boys. This kind
of collecting is no fun without an audience. It’s like the joke
about the guy marooned on a desert island with Cindy Crawford: something’s
missing until he gets her to dress up as a man so he can say, “You’ll
never guess who I’m schtupping!”
is also key for the classic wine-bore; the type who shows you all
around his precious cellar and then offers you a glass of Beaujolais
Nouveau. I say “his,” because while women may collect
stuffed animals and Depression glass, wine-collecting is mainly a
man’s world. America’s top two wine auctioneers were unable
to name me even one “great” female collector.
they preside over a fairly male phase of collecting: the hunt. The
once-exclusive auction world has recently been invaded by riff-raff
who cut their teeth on E-bay. A great surge in faxed and emailed bids
is not only moving things down-market, but changing the essential
auction dynamics. The frenzy that infects a mob and sends bids through
the roof, the rhythmic tide of excitement as each lot builds to climax
-- remote bidding kills all that.
tradition lives on, however, at the charity wine auction, an invitation-only
proving ground for the nascent big shot. The game here is conspicuous
overspending, to show the world you’ve arrived.
pile up out of equal parts love and neglect, but some people collect
purely for investment. Wine makes a cruel hedge fund. At least with
a painting you can fill the space above the couch and admire brushwork
while you wait for it to appreciate into something your children will
fight over when you’re dead. Alas, you can’t have your
Cab and drink it too. No sooner enjoyed but worthless, it’s
sometimes even dead on uncorking.
many collectors don’t care – they’re not planning
on drinking it. Some simply amass too much for a lifetime. One collector
I know has a whole cellar wing set aside for his funeral. It’s
mostly dessert wine, which he doesn’t even like, but he bought
because it was important. I, on the other hand, adore sweet wine,
and shall consider it an honor to toast his memory some day in ’67
so many, though, he actively enjoys his collection. He plays in the
cellar with the sensual bliss of King Midas in his gold, hefting bottles,
admiring and rearranging them. He buys them humidifiers and neck tags
the way a little girl accessorizes Barbie or a thug his Harley. He’s
also not averse to opening the good stuff for guests; my kind of collector.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in the Rocky Mountain News, Saturday
December 11th, 2004. Jennifer Rosen sadly passed away Christmas Eve, 2011. Her clever, funny, insightful, and entertaining wine musings charmed
the reader, bringing comfort and ease to often stuffy subject matter. This made every reader long to share a bottle with her, even if the wine wasn't
very good. Her award-winning wine writing included a BLOG , a regular column in Denver's Rocky Mountain News, and contributions
to the Wine Enthusiast and other magazines. She authored two entertaining and informative books about wine,
Waiter, There's a Horse in My Wine and The Cork Jester's Guide to Wine, both of which are probably the most fun you can have learning about wine.)