Once your new "cellar" is functional, you'll want to start stocking it. Again, there are a couple of golden rules. Don't be afraid to buy what you like - just don't buy a lot of it, because your taste will undoubtedly change. Buy a variety of bottles in various styles and price ranges to suit different occasions. The wine you serve at the neighborhood picnic is not the same one you should pour when the boss comes to dinner.

Buy wines from special years - weddings and birthdays. There's a wonderful old European custom of presenting a child with wine from his or her birth year on their 21st birthday, but if you plan on holding on to some bottles for a considerable amount of time, remember that wines are cheapest and more readily available on first release. Another consideration when cellaring: Wine keeps longer in larger bottle sizes, so a magnum (equal to two regular bottles or 10 glasses) will age more slowly than the standard 750 ml. size. Keep this in mind as you decide when to pop the cork. Bottles three liters and larger are great for parties and weddings.

The two most important caveats for the oenophile:

1. There is no wine you can't live without. Wines are like buses - miss one, there'll be another along in a few minutes.

2. Forget about buying wine as an investment. Buy to drink.

You know your tastes better than anyone, but with the thousands of wines on the market, a little help can be useful. Go to a shop that specializes in wine, find someone who seems friendly and knowledgeable, and explain what kind of wine you like. Ask for recommendations, and buy a few bottles. As you drink them, make notes. Record the name of the wine and your thoughts: "Tastes like dirty socks," "So tannic I thought I'd never speak again," or "Heaven in a bottle - I especially liked the cherry flavors." Return to the store and share your observations; this will help the salesman pinpoint your tastes. Try a few more suggestions. If you're not making a connection at this point, start shopping for a new salesman.