Maybe you’ve been turned off by the auction numbers (“case of Romanée-Conti brings $59,000!”) and think wine collecting is just a one-percenter’s status game.

It’s not just for those with the fattest wallets. Although major price inflation has hit first- and second-growth Bordeaux and grand cru and premier cru Burgundy, under-the-radar collectibles are still out there for those starting out or trying to decide what to do with this year’s bonus.

Here’s what you need to know and what to collect now.

Have a Plan 
Please. Like many wine lovers, I started out haphazardly squirreling away a few prized reds and ended up with a disorganized mix of bottles and cases in a corner of my basement. I’ve become systematic about my quietly aging stash.

There are plenty of reasons to collect. For example, there's convenience in having fine wines on hand so you don’t need to dash out at the last minute in quest of serious bottles for a special dinner. And you save a lot by buying the better stuff when it’s young and cheap—and aging it yourself—rather than paying jacked-up-prices for hard-to-find mature examples. 

Although the majority of wines are made to be consumed within months, the best reds taste way better after they’ve aged at least several years, even a decade, or more. The wines’ edgy tannins mellow, and fruity flavors evolve into layers of earthy complexity that repay time spent waiting to drink them. (A number of whites, preserved by high acidity, also improve with time.)Follow Your Taste

Buying wine is like buying art, except that you have to consume at least some of it along the way to enjoy it. So pick what you like. The only wines really worth collecting are ones you actually like to drink. Investment potential? Remember that wine isn’t as liquid (no pun intended) as stocks, and there are no guarantees that prices for your bottles will rise to bragging levels by the time you want to sell.  

Taste Before You Buy
Buy a bottle and try it before buying a case.  But I wouldn’t advise buying more than two cases of any one wine. 

Why? Collectors’ tastes evolve. I’ve watched former cult cab fanatics sell off case after case at auction so they can splurge on their new passion, Burgundy. Think About

There’s no point in keeping fine wines reposing in a fancy rack in the kitchen. Sadly, I’ve observed too many expensive reds displayed as decor and gradually destroyed because the temperature was too warm (a steady 55 degrees is ideal) or low humidity dried the corks. Invest in a temperature-controlled unit, keep an inventory of what you buy, and don’t forget to list it all on your insurance in case of power failure. Get a Solid