The lure of wine collecting can be intoxicating. Visions of gleaming wood, pristine glass and rough-hewn stone often come to mind””but before the bells and whistles come the accumulation of bottles and the organization of the collection itself. Here we explore the world of wine collecting through four different approaches designed to help you define your goals and ensure your cellar will fulfill your needs over time.

The two primary factors to consider are your lifestyle and that niggling detail: cost. Take a moment to consider how, realistically, you would best enjoy your wines. There’s no point in stocking up on $100-plus bottles if you don’t foresee many opportunities to serve them, no matter their prestige. Valuable wines often waste away in cellars as collectors wait for exalted occasions that never seem to arrive. A firm understanding of your wine-consumption habits and preferences will save you money and time, and ultimately reward you with a collection that is perfectly tailored to you.

Of course, the cost of collecting can be an equally firm guideline. For most collectors, it’s atypical, not to mention prohibitively expensive, to open a fine or rare bottle every time they reach for a corkscrew. A practical solution is to break down your shopping list into three categories: “good,” “better” and “best.” The price range for each will vary depending on wine types and regions, as well as your budget. In one example, “good” wines might cost around $25, “better” might be between $25 and $60, and “best,” over $60.

In some cases, after the initial investment, there is potential for longer-term economic benefit, as fine wine tends to appreciate in value as it matures. A dramatic example is Château Lafite Rothschild 1982, which rose from $390 a case when it was first offered as a future in 1983 to a high winning bid of $35,000 in 2016; a more typical example is Château Léoville Poyferré 1990, which has risen from $31 a bottle upon release to $286 at auction today.

After the considerations of lifestyle and expense are out of the way, let your creativity and personal passions bloom. There’s no one method of creating and organizing a collection, but without a plan, the process can be overwhelming. Each of the approaches described here can serve as a roadmap to your dream cellar:

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