Understanding Wine Labels
Understanding Wine Labels
Tips for Potential Bidders
Many first-time visitors to wine auctions report that they either spent much more money than they had wanted or, that once present, they were afraid to bid at all. Both of these problems can be avoided so long as one firmly decides to adhere to a few simple guidelines. First of all, carefully read the catalog as long in advance of the auction as possible and determine which wines interest you. Because it takes less than one minute for each lot of wines to be sold during an auction, you should know in advance which wines are of interest to you. Marking your catalog before the sale actually begins is the best way of controlling the need to buy on impulse, and impulse buying at auctions is one of the best known ways to waste money. Keeping this in mind, potential buyers should set a firm limit on the maximum amount they want to spend for any given wine and not go beyond that limit.
The second thing is to make a conscious decision not to bid until you have the feeling of how the auction is progressing. There is nothing wrong with going to an auction just for the fun of it, but only foolish people bid unless they have an idea of what they want to buy and what they can afford to pay. Before actually deciding to place a bid keep these things in mind:
- Buy only from reputable auction houses that have checked the provenance of the wines they are selling (where they were originally purchased, how they were stored, etc). Do not hesitate to ask about the provenance of wines you want to buy.
- Look over the catalog BEFORE the sale starts, ideally at home where you can do your homework and find out how much the wines in which you are interested have brought at earlier sales.
- Be sure to check the price you would normally pay for a particular wine. It is silly to pay more for a wine at auction than you would in the stores where you usually buy.
- The best bargains at most auctions are not in the great wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy but from minor chateaux and lesser known producers, many of which produce wines as good but far less in demand (and thus far less expensive) than those of their better-known neighbors.
- Several warnings are also in order. Remember, for example, that although the auctioneer and the catalog give you whatever information is available, there is no guarantee that older wines especially those more than 30 years old) will be drinkable. Also keep in mind that if you do not like the wines you buy, you cannot return them.
- Because many wines are sold by the case (12 bottles), it may be worthwhile to organize several friends and to bid as a group on the wines you all want. After the auction, you can divide the wines between yourselves.
- Before actually buying, check the catalog carefully to determine whether you will have to pay a buyers fee (some auctions do not charge any fee at all, others up to 15% on purchases), whether tax is included or will be added to the prices; and perhaps most important, whether you will be responsible for paying any import taxes on the wines you buy.
- Finally, because most of us are not familiar with the wines of every region, vinyard and winery, it is wise to pay special attention to the vintage years of the wines that interest you. Although wines from specific winery often rise above the quality of their vintage, the general nature of the vintage year gives a good picture of the minimum value of the wine you will buy.
Of course once you purchase your wine you will need to serve it in the proper wine glass. Why not also buy a set of personalized wine glasses to drink your wine from?