Wine's patron saint

Richard Kinssies sells great unsung vintages at miraculous prices

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Wine collecting 101

Determining when a wine will reach its peak is always at best an educated guess, but Richard Kinssies has a few tips. It's a good idea to cellar wines that will improve with age or may increase in value, he says, but don't expect to get rich on wine speculation. Buying older vintages (anything over 10 years of age is considered old) is risky, largely because it's impossible to know under what conditions the wine has been kept. But if the price is right and the wine is in good shape, the risk is often worthwhile.

Ask your wine merchant for advice. The balance of a wine's components (acid, tannin, sugar, and alcohol) is a crucial factor in how well it's likely to age. Today, most red wines are produced in a big, "fruit forward" style. As wines like this age, once the fruit goes, there's little left. So ask about balance when buying.

Consider white wines. When it comes to cellar wines, most people think of Cabernet Sauvignon, which is indeed a good choice. But many whites have a naturally high acidity, which acts as a preservative. Good whites for the cellar include dessert wines such as late-harvest Riesling and vintage Ports, plus Chenin Blanc and Riesling. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc do not age well.

Don't let your cellar get out of control. There may come a time when you realize you have more wine than you could possibly ever drink. Knowing that most wines don't age over 10 years, you'd be wise to control your inventory.

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