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Monday, December 21, 2015

What makes a wine collectible?

Wine, like art and vintage cars, carries with it a history, vintage, and a tiered value. In fact, most of a bottle's story is all right there on the label. That, along with the nuances of each crop and vintner, make wine a highly collectible item if you have the right bottle. The rarer the bottle and its contents, the higher its value is on the market. The perfect collectible wine should be age-worthy enough to hold on to and in-demand enough to grow in value throughout the years.

One has to be a collector to truly appreciate why one wine can be priced at a reasonable $30 while another is an outrageous $5,000. In 2011, two bottles of champagne that were salvaged from a 170 year old shipwreck sold at auction for $78,400 each. Amazingly, due to being stored in the dark, high pressure environment at the bottom of the sea they were still drinkable. These bottles went for such an exorbitantly high price because they were not only rare, but they came with a history and an unmatched story. Drinking from one of those bottles would truly be a once-in-a-lifetime event. In 2010, the bottles of 1869 Château Lafite-Rothschild sold for $230,000 a bottle. These bottles, however, weren't found swimming with the fishes. When it comes to the the right winemakers, good tasting notes and the right market, a wine's price knows no top. At that point in time, wealthy Asian collectors were sparing no expense to buy up Bordeaux wines, particularly those from Château Lafite. The second story illustrates one key thing about current blue chip wines. Bordeaux and Grand Cru Burgundy are the most in-demand wines, prized by collectors and auction houses alike. An investment in bottles of these wines can almost guarantee a quick sale on the international market. If you're turned on more by the treasure hunting aspect of the wine collecting game, you may be better off trying to spot the next bottle from the US that will become a cult knockout. Although they don't offer the high payoff that shipwreck champagne or prestigious Bordeaux offer, they are a fantastic investment for your buck. Some recent examples include:

Sine Qua Non
Quilceda Creek
Levy & McClellan

Collectible wine will only increase in value if it is delicately handled. That is, it should be stored in a cool, humid environment (55 degrees, 75% RH). There are many reputable wine storage facilities that not only keep a collection at optimal temperature but they will keep a log of what wines are being stored and when they will reach prime market value.

Another interesting change to the wine collection landscape is the increased use of investment funds and stock exchanges (there are three of them) that focus purely on wine. Proof that it's both easier to invest in wine these days and that you don't need to handle or store the physical bottles to make some money from the sale and re-sale of prized drops.

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