Moving house is stressful enough, and then comes the moment when the removal team begins packing your wine. Even with the best operation, something can easily go wrong. A prized bottle can slip out of the most experienced hands and fall to the floor. That means it is best not to watch as each one is removed, wrapped and then loaded into a box and shipped away for transportation.

A recent house move in London brought all this home. Mercifully, everything – all my odds and assortments – made it to the new house in one piece, but the nerve-wracking experience prompted me to reflect on why we – those of us with the inclination – keep wine at all. What is it that we’re looking for? Why not buy stuff as and when and drink it there and then when the occasion demands?

There are others collecting wine who barely seem to drink or even like it. For them it is a status symbol, a means of showing off, the alcoholic equivalent of sports cars, cigars, and chasing sexual partners.

After all, there is no shortage of wine in the shops, and in Britain an extraordinary range of wine from across Europe and the rest of the world is on offer. On the continental mainland, in my experience, the situation is different. There, local shops and supermarkets outside the main cities offer primarily the fruits of what has been grown in that region. Even driving ten miles further north in the Rhône can make a major difference. The best place to buy Gigondas – my favourite in the region – is in Gigondas itself. Even in large supermarkets there is understandable regional pride and a determination to support growers long embedded in the local soil.

Britain is different. It is a mongrel nation when it comes to wine, with a long tradition of importing. England has only recently begun to make serious inroads in wine production, and the volumes remain small. Gleefully, British buyers scavenge from around the world – picking meaty Australia one minute, the hot red wines of Sicily the next, and then the cool Sauvignons of New Zealand. My mission continues to convince friends that New Zealand’s new generation of up-scale chardonnays from Kumeu River rival, and sometimes outdo, the increasingly over-priced whites from Burgundy.

London wine fans are spoilt for choice. The UK capital city is particularly well-served with grand and not so grand wine merchants. Nationally, the Wine Society, owned by its members, provides an exemplary service, although too little, say critics, in the way of the eclectic and unusual. The supermarkets drive the bulk of consumption.

Even so, with all that wine on tap with a regular trip to the shops, for some reason this is not enough and almost anyone who can afford to will look for a way to keep and age some wine. Which is how I came to be moving, or having moved for me, some of my favourite bottles awaiting the corkscrew.

There are solutions to the storage and moving dilemma, say super-wealthy friends. Store the bulk of your collection at one of those vast cellaring facilities carved into the side of a hill, or at a warehouse where a team will monitor temperature control. The wine collector can then by email or app summon up supplies at the optimal moment when the wines are drinking perfectly. That way wine will not have to be lugged about by removal men during any house move either.

It seems the problem with storing wine off site is that managing the process becomes a pain, according to some of those who do it. What should be a pleasure is turned into more of a logistical chore. I know one extremely rich person who found it so unrelaxing and fiddly that he sold his entire collection. He started again, with a much smaller and manageable store of wines at home.

There are others collecting wine who barely seem to drink or even like it. For them it is a status symbol, a means of showing off, the alcoholic equivalent of sports cars, cigars, and chasing sexual partners. 

Collecting assumes a large enough wallet and sufficient wine to require mass storage. Most of us do not have that problem. Enthusiastic amateurs – the category into which I fall – have special bottles and cases put aside in a cupboard. If you do this, make sure it is a cool and dark space and try to avoid using a cupboard under the stairs. Feet thumping on the stairs, time after time, day after day, can create just enough movement to unsettle the wine and spoil its development.

Keeping too much at home brings other problems. A journalist colleague with a first-rank palette told me recently that he has bought so much that he now has an estimated 2,000 bottles stored in the cellar underneath his house. Supplies are so backed up, and space so tight, that he will have to drink his way through to access the oldest stuff. It will take years. What an ordeal...

What did I find of note in my move among the cases of Gigondas? A stray bottle of Taylor’s port 1985, brought by a friend in Edinburgh to a dinner party in the mid-2000s who said at the front door, “keep this, lay it down”. Good advice. I can see him saying it now.

The best place to buy Gigondas – my favourite in the region – is in Gigondas itself.

Then a random bottle of good quality pink stuff from Provence, forgotten from the 2010 vintage. It will be vile now.

There were some Champagne gems though, including a magnum of Pol Roger 1999 that will be over-the-hill but interesting, and a bottle of Pol Roger Winston Churchill from 1998 that will be perfect. I will open it to mark the publication of Andrew Roberts’s single-volume life of Churchill due later this year. Obviously, I will not open it at the book launch party, as one bottle will not go far and could cause a fight. Anyway, Andrew will have sourced Champagne by the caseload for his friends for that party.

Collecting wine saves money, it is said, because it can be bought young and drunk when it has matured, risen in price and can hardly be found, although I have never thought the process is much of a bargain.

The fun and pleasure are what are foremost for most us, I suspect. In a small way, via sensation and the sparking of memories, good wine kept and opened years later brings the past to life and can make the future look brighter. Call it sentimentality, if you must. I prefer – as I have said in this column before – to think in Tory terms of Edmund Burke and the connection between the generations, with our obligation to the dead, the living and to those unborn or making their way in the world.

Collecting wine saves money, it is said, because it can be bought young and drunk when it has matured, risen in price and can hardly be found, although I have never thought the process is much of a bargain.

One case of claret I had stored at the very back, and lifted especially carefully, was a Margaux from the superb 2009 vintage, a Marquis de Terme bought to keep and open when my son comes of age in 2022 if, God willing, I am still upright and functioning by then. “The wine will still be far too young!” said a leading wine writer when the subject came up, but then he thinks the Bordeaux 1945s are still on the young side.

Fretting over the perfect age to drink that Margaux is not the point, though. I bought it, and keep it, in the hope and expectation that we will share every bottle, and laugh, with family and friends.