People whom inherit a wine cellar ask me this question regularly, as do clients who have bought far too much wine, people who have lost the love for certain wines or people that succumb to the sharp rise in prices in the market place. What is the value of their wines today?
The most objective way to find out is to offer your wines at an auction house: this is a sure way of finding out their market value.
But how exactly does the auction process work? To properly inform my readers, I decide to offer a wine from my own cellar, so that I can experience the entire process from a to z:
A Château Cheval Blanc, premier grand cru classé from Saint-Emillion, from 1988. Almost thirty years ago I paid 325 Belgian francs for it (8.10 euros). The domain was not yet owned by Albert Frère: he bought it ten years later, together with Bernard Arnault, chief executive of the luxury multinational LVMH. Cheval Blanc is a wine from on of the most renowned châteaux in the world, but 1988 is not considered an excellent vintage. I wonder, what the bottle will yield now?
The first step is to choose the right auction house. Of course I want a house with a large network of wealthy buyers, so that my wine achieves the highest possible prices. World-famous names such as Christie's and Sotheby's do not only auction wine, but also art and antiques. They are known for the relatively high commission that both the buyer and seller have to pay. I therefore opt for the Antwerp auction house Sylvie’s, a company that is specialised in auctioneering wine. It has been in existence for more than thirty years and has built up a strong network and an impeccable reputation. Sylvie's was named after the wife of the founder 42 years ago but is now owned by a Dutch ex-banker, Aart Schutten, a man with a great passion for wine.
I sent an email with the message that I would like to to offer a bottle of 1988 Cheval Blanc at the next auction. Sylvie's rapidly comes back to me with a free estimate of what that bottle would be worth now: from 250 euros (low estimate) to 320 euros (high estimate). This is a great return on my purchase. Sylvie’s will deduct their seller’s commission of 6% from my proceeds. On the buyer’s side, they pay 18.9%. I agree, a week later for an employee from Sylvie's to come and collect the bottle. He takes pictures of it, gives me a receipt and then stores them carefully at their warehouse. The owner Mr. Schutten lets me know by email that all wines are "insured by Sylvie’s from the moment of collection". But in the conditions of the consignment I read that 'Sylvie's auction cannot be held responsible for any damage, breakage, theft or theft before, during and after the auction'. I am not completely comfortable with it.
In a next episode you can read what happened to my wine.