Uninterrupted growth for ten years

In recent years, wine has experienced an upward growth on the secondary market. The world's top tier of auction houses make wines sales a permanent fixture on their calendar. Last year, Hospices de Beaune, Christie's charity wine auction brought in over € 11 million (£8.67 million.)

Hospices de Beaune 2015 Image: Jean-Philippe Ksiazek for AFP Hospices de Beaune 2015
Image: Jean-Philippe Ksiazek for AFP

The sale of wine is particularly suited to online auctions, perhaps as unlike a painting or a piece of design furniture, it is not necessary to travel to "physically" see the object, or bottle, in question.

On various platforms -including Barnebys which has a category dedicated to wines and spirits- all the necessary information needed for the purchase can be found in just a few clicks.

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 11.09.56 Wine on Barnebys

Through enabling access to auctions, online sales platforms have managed to attract a more international (and wealthier) clientele. iDealwine.com, the first online auction house dedicated to wine, recorded in 2015 a turnover of € 8.9 million (£7 million.)

An acquired taste: Who should collect wine?

Lovers of wine and spirits are at large, a diverse bunch. 90% of those who collect and sell wine at auctions are individuals, who have collected with passion over the years.

Why sell? It is better to consign bottles to auctions, rather than let them perish (by that, we mean keep him too long, causing the wine to oxidate.) Auction is a good way to make a profit that can be reinvested in a new winery.

Upon the sale of the Elysee's wine cellar in June 2013, buyers from around the world Image: Credit Presidency of the French Republic Elysee's wine cellar in June 2013 Image: Credit Presidency of the French Republic

Why buy? For the buyer, auction is a great way to acquire a wine which is ten years or older, which can be harder - and more expensive - to purchase on the primary market.

In the early 2000's, us Brits were the major wine buyers on the secondary market. Today, the Chinese market are having a real impact on wine sales. China has become ranked the fifth in the wine consumer market, behind the United States, France, Italy and Germany.

Local production has even exploded on the the Chinese scene. According to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, the Chinese vineyard area increased by 34 million hectares in 2015, making it the second largest area of vineyard by country.

Which wines to buy at auction?

Even if today it is challenged by some critics, the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855 is a very good guide for buying. Established at the request of Emperor Napoleon III for the Universal Exhibition of 1855, this classification is still a reference for impeccable French wines.

Extract from the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855 Image via crus-classes.com Extract from the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855
Image via crus-classes.com

If you want to consume your wine immediately, second wines from great Châteaux are for you - their quality is undeniable and their prices are accessible. If your goal is to collect and invest, premiers and seconds crus classés are your best bet.

The wines of Burgundy, Italy and the New World (South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, USA, South America) are not to be ignored and can also be sources of treasure.

In France, wine auction sales are composed of 60% Bordeaux, mostly of crus classés and 20% Bourgogne wines. The remaining 20% ​​is made up of wines from the Rhône region and vintage spirits.

Tips for purchasing

Buying wine at auction, is exactly the same as bidding on furniture or jewellery, always do your research and ask questions to make sure you are making an informed bid. If you are about to bid for the first time at a wine auction, seek advice from an expert, who will be happy to guide you.

Extract from the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855 Image via crus-classes.com A bottle of Romanée-Conti on sale at Sotheby's in Hong Kong, 2014 Image: François Guillot for AFP

Things to consider are: the wine's age, the label, the cap, the capsule and all that is known about the history and origin of the bottle.

If you have the opportunity, visit the auction house, as they generally receive the wines for sale a few days before the auction. This is a good way to inspect the general condition of the bottle and check that the auction house has an appropriate place for storing wine, not too hot or too cold.

If you are a seasoned auction-goer, platforms such as iDealwine, Sylvie's in Antwerp and Besch Cannes are a must to continue your collection.

If you are bidding for the first time, set yourself a price limit, as there is a danger of being caught up in the excitement of bidding!