Building a wine collection means always having a good bottle on hand. You can go the next step and buy wines for aging, but that's not necessary: Since nine and a half wines out of ten are sold ready to drink—and even some traditionally cellar-worthy reds from Bordeaux and Burgundy are delicious when young—there's no need to put aside most bottles for extra maturation unless you want to.
As with physicians, the primary rule of wine storage is "First, do no harm." The two conditions that most threaten wine are direct sunlight and extreme heat or cold. Try to keep bottles someplace dark and cool (preferably, between 55 and 65 degrees).
The Ideal Mix
Your wine collection will quickly come to reflect your personal tastes, but the suggestions here may be helpful for beginners. They cover a range of choices, from inexpensive bottles to pop open on a Tuesday night to ageworthy wines to pull out when special guests drop by.
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Nonvintage Gruet Brut $13 This sparkling wine from New Mexico has the right mix of richness and verve to partner with everything from spicy Asian food to fried chicken.
2003 Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Chenin Blanc $9 From Sonoma's Chenin Blanc master, this melony, peachy wine has the dryness and snap of acidity to pair well with shellfish.
2002 Hogue Chardonnay $10 This soft, juicy Washington white is less overtly rich than many of its California rivals. Refreshing, with aromas of sappy yellow apple and lemon.
2003 Carmen Sauvignon Blanc $8 From Chile's relatively cool Curicó region, this white has a lean edge and a fresh finish, with a touch of varietal herbiness and pineapple.
2002 Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz-Cabernet $11 The addition of Cabernet to red-cherry-inflected Shiraz gives this Australian red firmness and plum-currant flavor. Oaky but harmonious.
2000 Château Coufran $28 In the Cabernet-dominated Médoc, this contrarian cru bourgeois winery has planted its vineyards to 85 percent Merlot. As a result, this aromatic red from a superb vintage is very supple. It's tasty now and will age well for 10 to 15 years.
2002 Nicolas Potel Morey-Saint-Denis $44 From a vintage noted for abundant fruit character, this luscious red Burgundy is scented with violets and licorice and something like sun-baked black cherries. Vibrant now, it will reward five to 10 years of aging.
2001 Roshambo Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel $21 This sleek new Sonoma winery has crafted an ebullient, briary wine full of the flavors of black fruit, violets, vanilla icing and spice.
Dow's Trademark Finest Reserve Porto $17 Vintage Porto can require years to mature, but this nonvintage, wood-aged version is ready now. Rich, sweet and full of cinnamon and candied-plum flavors.
2003 Esperto Pinot Grigio $12
Livio Felluga, one of the top winemakers in the Friuli region of northeastern Italy, is the genius behind this "entry-level" Pinot Grigio. The wine is generously fruity and compulsively drinkable, with a lovely expression of peach, citrus, melon and wildflowers.