Grape expectation for first major wine auction

Published on Business Desk

Whether you’re a wine aficionado bidding on great wines or just someone who likes wine and wants to explore a little, buying wine at auction can be a smart way to build your cellar or discover a world of wine at relatively reasonable prices and learn at the same time.

The Wine Auction Room has its first major live auction of the year on February 8. Its creators reckon it’s a great way to discover new wines, find familiar labels at potentially lower prices than retail, or secure truly extraordinary wines at the top end.

“It’s for people who already have started to build or have a wonderful collection that they want to add to…and it’s also for people who are looking to start out collecting. We are really keen to demystify wine,” says Reece Warren, co-founder of The Wine Auction Room.

Topping the list at the live wine Auction at Caro’s in Grey Lynn next month is what The Wine Auction Room expects to be the most expensive bottle of wine yet sold at auction in New Zealand, a magnum of 1996 Domaine de la Romanee Conti Romanee-Conti Grand Cru 1500ml from the Cote de Nuit. It has an estimate of $65,000 to $85,000. (It’s Lot 235 in the catalogue.)

“It was for many years considered the most expensive red wine brand in the world,” says Warren. “It is a wine that is totally allocated. It never sees the market. If you pass it up one year, you won’t be offered it again.”

One of the most interesting – and more affordable — lots may be a dozen bottles of New Zealand Riesling made by 12 winemakers who were each given the same parcel of grapes from Waipara, Canterbury, in April 2010 – an exploration of the different styles possible from the Riesling grape. The case has an estimate of $220-$260.

The February auction is part of the trend towards wine as an investment. It may also be a clever way for experienced buyers and those starting out in their wine journey to find wines that may never reach retail, or acquire them at better prices. It may also draw you into the world of en primeur wine sales – buying wine before it is bottled, or direct from producers. Some of the wines in the February auction are in the $20-to-$30 range.

Warren is cautious about recommending wine as a financial investment (though it can be and The Week reported that the Liv-Ex Fine Wine 1,000 index delivered a return of 38.1 percent over the given years to October last year) rather than an investment in enjoying it.

“My advice is: do your research. Buying wine in the secondary market may not always be the best for investments. My wine cellar at home is an investment in friends and family. It’s not a monetary investment and for many years I didn’t even write down what I paid for wines.”

He reckons New Zealand is an under-developed wine market and that there are opportunities to build future great collections of wines you enjoy and that may appreciate: “If you buy well, you will do well. Build a collection, build a cellar.”

Other investment-grade wines that Wine Auction Room is promoting include:

  • 1982 Petrus (estimates $6,000 – $8000)
  • 1990 Le Pin, Pomerol (estimates $8,000 – $10,000)
  • 1999 Domaine Leroy Romanee St Vivant Grand Cru, Cote de Nuit (estimates $9,000 – $13,000)
  • 10 bottle vertical of Penfolds Grange vintages 1995 – 2004
  • 10 bottle vertical of Penfolds Grange vintages 2005 – 2014

Among New Zealand investment wines, there are bottles and magnums of Te Mata Coleraine and Stonyridge Larose.

The auction is streamed online — and it’s also possible to attend in person at Caro’s Grey Lynn (even if the country shifts alert levels). “There are bidders there, but there’s also just people who are interested in it in the spectacle, and this is part of their learning process too,” says Warren. Many bidders are online watching the streamed auction. The Wine Auction Room expects bidders from Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and China, he says: “New Zealand is a very good place to buy. For example, buying wine in the primary market in Australia is quite expensive due to the high ‘wet tax’, compared to here, we pay excise around $2 a bottle.”

Warren reckons New Zealand is still a developing wine market and that it is a great time to look at local and international wines as you build your idea of a cellar. “One of the reasons that we get a lot of international buyers in New Zealand is there’s not so much competition here. We’re a small population.. We punch well above our weight with world class wines which are a fraction of the price of international contemporaries.. There are some wonderful bargains of wine from New Zealand. What a great opportunity that is to buy world class wine at a price that is reasonable. New Zealand produces great wines which is something we should be very proud of.”

Register to The Wine Auction Room Rare and Fine Wine Live Auction here