It’s not every day I’m allowed within the gated community of Crystal Cove, but when I gain access, oh boy! It’s amazing to see what jewels private collectors acquire for their wine cellars. Recently, I was invited to a neighborhood event and the collector had everything you could possibly ask for: older vintages of cult cabernets from Napa Valley to an extensive list of Burgundy that to this day I still fantasize about.
I was under the assumption that most collectors buy straight from retail shops or direct allocations from a winery. Not the case. After speaking to this collector, I learned that a lot of the wines are obtained through online auction houses. This brings up the question of quality, but I can honestly say every wine tasted that night was sound, not a bad apple in the bunch. Below is a list of some pros and cons for those of you considering this route.
Buying Wine Through Online Auction Houses:
Price Often you can find wines that are less expensive than you would normally pay directly from a winery.
Age There is nothing as exciting as opening perfectly mature Bordeaux; unfortunately this takes a lot of patience. Auction houses offer you the luxury of being able to buy extremely old wine without having to wait.
Convenience What’s more convenient and fun then sitting at home, out of traffic, bidding on wine?
Selection The wines these auction sites offer rival the Best Restaurant Grand Award-winning wine lists of the world.
Provenance Where the wine came from is not always known. And as much as we would like to think the industry is built on honesty and integrity, there is always the exception.
Storage When buying from a third party, it’s often difficult to know what conditions the wine was stored in. Poor storage can dramatically affect your wine. Always ask for a picture of the bottle before making your purchase. If the label is soiled with mold or stained with wine, it can indicate problems with the cellar.
Buyers Premium This fee can range anywhere from 10 to 15 percent. There is no fee when you shop retail. But how else can you get your hands on that 2007 Scarecrow?
I asked the collector for the names of trustworthy auction sites and he generously supplied the list below. Even though there are risks, I still highly recommend you give it a try.
Spectrum Wine Auction: A local company with an extensive selection.
Cellar Bid: On this website there is an easy tutorial on how to get started, as well as a dictionary for terms commonly used in the auction community.
K&L Wine Merchants: This well-known and respected wine shop also has an online wine auction.
WineBid: This site offers everything from everyday wines to extremely rare selections.
Zachys Wine Online: Not only can you buy wine on this site, but you can also sell your prized bottles.