This fall, some of the best wine values might be at auction

hammer “I guarantee you all these prices will be significantly higher this time next year,” John Kapon, president and auctioneer at Acker, Merrall is reported to have said between bids at an auction last December. The buyers who paid $8,000 for six bottles of the ’61 Dom Perignon and $22,000 of for eight bottles of the ’66 Cristal might be wondering if that was a money-back guarantee.

Prices of all kinds of assets have declined precipitously since last December. Wine appeared somewhat immune as recently as September but evidence is now emerging that prices for collectible wines are entering a correction after many years of strong growth. The Liv-ex 100 Fine Wine Index fell 12.4 percent in October.

A close observer of auctions told me yesterday that two recent sales only sold 35 and 43 percent of lots. And some lots are going for well below the low price estimate. At another auction, someone else told me that a case of 1998 Grand Cru Chablis sold for $60. Even though there’s a risk of premature oxidation with that wine, $5 a bottle certainly seems like it’s worth a flier. Such a low selling price indicates that there was no reserve.

While many shops may have locked in higher costs, making them unwilling or unable to discount, some specialty shops do broker private collections too and can have faster turnarounds than auction houses. Provenance is always an issue with mature wine, so feel free to ask where the wines came from.

But some sellers at auction may be eager to liquidate making the secondary market may be the best place for wine deals this fall. Of course, if the global economic malaise continues into next year or beyond, declines in fine wine prices could continue. So you may not want to step in and catch too many falling magnums.

Some upcoming auctions: Zachys, Nov 6-8; Acker, Merrall Nov 7; Christie’s Nov 17 and 21; Sotheby’s Nov 22; Hart Davis Hart Dec 5.

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7 Responses to “This fall, some of the best wine values might be at auction”


  1. The holiday season should usually mean robust buying, but certainly with this many major players trying to auction wine at a time that all holiday spending is looking to be reduced should mean some great deals. Thanks for the dates


  2. [...]  Source: Dr Vino [...]


  3. The thing about investments like this is if the wine is able to age well in the bottle, now is the time to buy. Prices are low, and one can ride out the market with those assets until they make their desired return. In that sense, it’s not as unstable as buying a company which has their stock prices lower (their future is not as foreseeable as a bottle that will stay in fashion and ages well).


  4. I don’t know much about auctions, but I can give you a related example. A local wine store sent an email out to everybody on their list offering to buy wines from cellars and had an overwhelming response from people desperate to raise cash, even at big losses. This was particularly acute among money managers and stock brokers who had been collecting cellars (status wines mostly) and now needed to liquidate. That sort of thing echos throughout the industry.

    This comment brought to you by 2 Days per Bottle, trying to click on every link on its blogroll every day.


  5. Has anyone done some analysis on the carbon footprint of auctioned wines? My understand is that most of them are transported by air shipments.

    Is a boycott in the works?


  6. Dr. Vino it looks as if you may be more right than you know. Earlier this year you asked whether lean financial times would have an effect on stratospheric wine prices. I predicted yes, and many in the industry responded with injured pride and vitriol at the suggestion that they were gouging. Well they may not be able to cut their margins for a variety of reasons, but the secondary market is falling fast. Auctions, from the daily internet types to the large houses, are suddenly seeing a glut of large lots of trophy wines formerly unseen offered in such quantities (if at all). The interesting thing is that the glut will cause prices to fall faster, an more untaken lots. I have witnessed many being amenable to offers far below what would have flown a year ago. I think some well placed bets right now could yield serious investment rewards, not to mention the possibility of building a serious cellar on the cheap. Now if only I had the time to peruse these fifty and one hundred page auction catalogs from the big houses I could really inform my decision.


  7. [...] has the wine auction market touched bottom? While it was the first place to pick up deals in the fall as the economy took a nose dive, it seems to be perking up now. But is this a false [...]


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