Think wine auctions are stodgy affairs reserved for the filthy rich? The reality may surprise you.
Wine auctions of decades past were often exclusive, stuffy events geared to the top echelon of consumer. That’s far afield from today, according to Samantha Compono, director of operations for Acker Merrall & Condit. The firm has conducted fine and rare wine auctions since 1820.
Today’s wine auctions are inclusive, fun and interactive celebrations of food and wine catering to all walks of wine lover. Compono was recently featured on the Wine Studio education program and was interviewed by Vino-Sphere.
The advent of the digital age means that participation in wine auctions is no longer limited by geography. Anyone with access to a website or an app can participate. You may be someone ready to jump into an online wine auction if you are interested in expanding your cellar, exploring older vintages or simply enhancing your palate.
While some lots can range into the tens of thousands, web auctions feature many lots under $100, said Compono. You can taste great producers without committing to a case or half case. Mixed lots are appealing to cost-conscious buyers and feature great finds and great values. It’s a way to get diversity into your cellar quickly.
The Thrill Of The Hunt
First time auction participants should know that there is no entrance fee to participate. Acker Merrall applies a 24% fee to the winning bid price to offset the auction house cost of conducting the auction. Getting started is as simple as filling out a registration form with basic information and a valid credit card to hold your bids. If you are itching to experience an online wine auction, Acker Merrall’s next online auction starts January 1, 2019, and runs through January 13.
A wine auction might be just the ticket if you are on the hunt for something special - a coveted vintage, a bottle of a newly discovered producer you’ve been clamoring to try, or finally finding that perfect bottle to complete a vertical you’ve been working on. While seeking elusive vintages or filling in weak spots in a wine collection are all motivations, there is more.
“Wine auctions are fun,” said Compono. “From a practical perspective, participating in wine auctions is the best way to access vintages long gone on average retail shelves and finding and winning a lot at auction can feel like uncovering lost treasure. Plus, there is the thrill of the hunt. It always feels great to win!”
Lots from Bordeaux and Burgundy are the real superstars and those coveted wines can be very costly. Aged Champagne, Rhones, and wines from Italy, Spain and California all frequent the auction catalogs.
If you are bidding on a Burgundy from the 1990s, how do you know the bottles aren’t spoiled? In the case of Acker Merrall, are wines are carefully examined to ensure they have been stored properly and are, in fact the wine represented. Acker Merrall subjects all wine to robust inspection procedures and also use a third party to inspect the bottles. Frequently the bottles are opened and sampled to taste for provenance. A limited guarantee is provided by Acker Merrall if they are notified of problems in a timely way.
First timers needn't be hesitant. Acker Merrall offers a “fine wine concierge” who is available at any time to help with questions on bidding. Bidders can also connect with one of the company’s experts to hone in strategies on focus for each sale.
Here are some tips for first time online wine auction participants:
- Do your research. Whether a single bottle or a case or cases from a specific producer, search through open auction inventory via digital or hard copy catalogs. You can search specific auction house latest results to ensure low and high estimate ranges are accurate, and that you place a proper competitive bid.
- Check your increments. Most auction houses will tell you if you place a bid off-increment, but in case they don’t put yourself in the best position to win by checking and ensuring you place your bid properly, within bidding parameters for the house.
- Know your limit, and place it. Always go into an auction with an idea of your max spend, keeping in mind auction premium and any tax that may apply. If you’re bidding digitally, utilize the ‘max bid’ feature to have the system bid immediately for you up to your limit so you aren’t outbid at the end of a heated auction. If you’re willing to pay more than your initial bid, you’ll still have the greatest chance of being the winner up to your maximum price and not miss your chance with a manual click.
- Don’t underestimate the value of a great mixed lot. Big time collectors seek out original cases of 6 or 12 bottles, but there are great values to be had when exploring mixed lots that can cross country, vintage and style, and the estimates typically reflect that.
- Never let geography define your role in bidding. You can bid from any mobile device or tablet, submit auto-bids and watch a sale as it happens in real time, anywhere in the world. If you don’t need your purchases right away, return shipping via temperature-controlled shipping container is typically affordable, if not complimentary.