Start Your Own Wine Collection With These Bottles and Services
(Bloomberg Businessweek) -- Maybe last year you wished for a cellar of great wines to see you through the pandemic because, well, having wines on hand to drink is certainly one benefit of collecting.
But here’s another. “With interest rates near zero, a wine collection is an investment, a steady, safe haven for capital,” says Miles Davis, head of the professional portfolio management service for the U.K. platform Wine Owners.
He’s thinking about numbers like this: Since its first release, the value of a case of 2000 Armand Rousseau Chambertin, a grand cru Burgundy, has soared 3,002% to its current market price of $38,553 (as of Feb. 5), according to Liv-ex, the global marketplace for the wine trade.
In 2021 it’s easier than ever to play this collecting-investing game, for pleasure or profit—or both. The recent boom in online auctions makes it easier to scoop up collectibles while lounging at home in sweats. Jamie Ritchie, worldwide head of Sotheby’s Wine, says the auction house pivoted to digital in a significant way last year, holding 20 online-only sales, as well as 21 with live auctioneers. The new format has drawn new buyers, 60% of them in their 30s and 40s. In February, Sotheby’s is holding two additional digital sales featuring red Burgundies.
For California cabernet lovers, Zachys Wine International LLC in Scarsdale, N.Y., is powering a direct-from-the-cellar sale with Napa Valley Vintners that runs through Feb. 20. The 100 exclusive lots present wines that are almost impossible to obtain, such as a 15-year vertical (vintages 2000-14) of Shafer Hillside Select and 6-liter bottles of Opus One from five vintages.
To help clients research a wine’s collecting potential, Acker Wines auctions in New York has created a data-backed digital platform designed with a comprehensive set of market analysis tools like a traditional equities monitor. They allow you to easily evaluate broad wine investment trends and compare and track specific brands’ price performance over decades. Best of all? It’s free.
So, what to buy?
If you’re a traditionalist, start collecting the kind of wines you already love. But for investment-grade bottles there are five considerations: rarity, reputation, vintage, critics’ scores, and provenance—its source and storage.
The list of what’s hot has expanded beyond blue-chip Bordeaux and top Burgundy reds, the latter of which have been on an extraordinary roll for the past decade.
Liv-ex’s Burgundy report on Jan. 27 found that growth is beginning to slow, and white Burgundy is having a moment. The 25% tariffs the U.S. imposed in 2019 on wines from France, Germany, Spain, and the U.K. have had an effect, too. Cult Wines Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Tom Gearing says Champagne (exempt from the tariffs) and wines from the Rhône Valley are undervalued.
The biggest story in 2020 was the rise of Italy as a powerhouse in the collecting market, especially wines from Piedmont and Tuscany. And although Bordeaux’s share of trades has dropped, Sotheby’s Ritchie says the region still offers the best value, especially wines from properties where recent investments have increased quality. The wines on this list, suggested by experts I’ve quoted and others, are delicious, will age well long-term, and are top performers with a future.
Platforms to Get Started
● The least expensive entry point is fractional investment app Rally. Shares of the soon-to-be-offered 2009 Domaine Leroy Richebourg will be $25 each, whereas a case retails for $100,000. The drawback? You can’t drink your fractional shares—or control a bottle’s sale.
● Vinovest, which started a little more than a year ago, has a minimum buy-in of $1,000 and a five-minute sign-up process. Co-founder Anthony Zhang says the company selects wines, which you can also drink, via algorithms to fit one of three investing styles: conservative, moderate, or risky. Well‑known somms are on hand to give advice.
● U.K.-based Cult Wines, which specializes in wine investment, operates in 77 countries and expects to open a New York office this year.
● Lauded London wine merchant Bordeaux Index features investment and cellar management departments, as well as an addictive live online trading platform.
Find a Fridge
A cool place for your stash, ideally 55F, is a must—whether professional storage, a home cellar, or a wine fridge. High temperatures can make wine taste flat and tired. Lack of humidity shrinks corks and lets in oxygen, which turns valuable wine to vinegar. For the smallest examples that hold roughly 20 bottles, expect to pay about $200, and look to the Koolatron brand. For a large one—think 6 feet tall and almost as wide—EuroCaves start at about $7,200.
And Whatever You Do, Don’t Overbuy
Your tastes will evolve and change. Ritchie of Sotheby’s suggests collecting a balanced selection of red, white, rosé, and sparkling, with some to enjoy today and others for the future—and special occasions. The best reds and some whites improve with age as tannins mellow and flavors and aromas become more complex.
Eight Wines to Enhance Any Collection
2008 Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill
It’s a great vintage of this full-bodied bubbly that ages exceptionally well. $286
2008 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne
Older vintages of this superelegant sparkler have been climbing in price and trades over the past couple of years. $190
Think of this complex Chilean red from a top vintage as an emerging-markets investment. $150
2015 Château Rauzan-Ségla
The Wertheimers, who own Chanel, have poured millions into this property, and it shows in this rich vintage, which will only get better with age. $145
2016 Luciano Sandrone le Vigne
This top vintage for a violet-scented classic Barolo has already climbed 116% in value since its release last fall. $200
2016 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape
An investment favorite, this wine from the southern Rhône is dense, spicy, and seamless. $109
2016 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Dark berry and herb aromas and complex, layered flavors promise a long life for this red that’ll age on a constant upward curve. $125
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