Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Going Going Gone...Wine Auction Fun: Part 2

During the fall, Frankly Wines started to dabble in the wine auction world. I figured the auction market would be slow and prices low due to the stock market implosion: And since we were heading into the holidays, any goodies I managed to pick up would have their best chance of selling in the coming weeks.

I learned quickly that wine auctions can be a dangerous pastime. You walk into the room with your target lots selected, your upper limits firmly in place, and your total budget for the day well understood. Then as soon as that little numbered paddle hits your hand, you can barely restrain yourself from waving it in the air. But if you can control yourself, you can walk away with some really great stuff.

I snagged several cases 10 – 25 year old Bordeaux and 1 case of Eileen Hardy Shiraz 1993, one of the old-school stars of Australia. As planned (and hoped), everything was going, going, gone less than a month after hitting the shelves. The last auction bottle sold just yesterday...not bad given shelf prices were around $50 - $70.

Well that sounds easy…buy it, price it, sell it! Not quite.

There’s a huge amount of research involved. Like what was the quality of the vintage? (Great vintages tend to age longer, while less great vintages have the advantage of drinking well at an earlier age. There’s research on the producer …they may have a great reputation today, but that doesn’t mean it was so great 25 years ago. There’s pricing…is anyone else selling the same vintage? If not, a similar producer from that vintage? Or a similar vintage by the same producer? And on it goes.

You do all that, pick a shelf price, figure out the maximum you want to bid (including the typically hefty buyers premium), load it all into a fancy spreadsheet (maybe that’s just me) , snag a seat next to a power outlet so your computer doesn’t die and then wait for the lot to come up for bidding….while trying NOT to randomly bid on anything else.

It’s a lot of work for a little dabbling. But for a small retailer like Frankly Wines, I think it’s absolutely worth it. Drinking an aged wine can be a wonderful, mysterious experience, but unless you have the money, space, and patience to buy and store the stuff, it's a relatively rare one. So I like to always keep the store stocked with a small selection of older vintages from good producers with a reasonable chance of already being in that good-drinking window. And the auction market is the best place to get these bottles….as long as you can keep your paddle well under control.

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