I am in the process of selling wine for the first time; not a lot, just some. But as a novice seller I am unsure whether I am going about this in the right way, or even if I should be selling any wine at all. Besides that tidy basket of anxiety, it’s terribly emotional packing up 1986 Lafite Rothschild and 1985 Sassicaia, waving good bye to old friends that occupied cellar rack space for more than twenty years, still adorned with dust from my first wine cellar back on Long Island. The fact is I am vehemently opposed to wine speculation and this whole affair is stimulating a guilt reflex my mother instilled in me while growing up Jewish in Brooklyn. I don’t need the money, so why am I torturing myself like this?
WineBid paid a visit to my house last week and picked up 19 bottles. I wanted them to come when I wasn’t home…have my son carry the boxes up from the cellar instead. The idea of physically participating in a hand off felt too much like the car ride that precedes euthanizing a long loved house pet. This building river of guilt runs even deeper since I really would have liked to support Skinner, a local auction house in Boston. They seem like nice people and I had a pleasant time at one of their recent live auctions. But the folks at WineBid were ultimately more responsive and probably sensed the guilt I was experiencing, staying relentlessly supportive before swooping in with a seller’s agreement and rapid in-person pick up.
The consignment’s reserve price has been set at $5,995. Of course, I will have to pay seller’s commission so I will probably net something under that. I really don’t know how much money this nightmare will yield; I am a complete [emotionally-wrecked] rookie. I did get rid of some wine I have no interest in, like Mollydooker Blue Eyed Boy. That’s good. Why did I ever buy that grape jam anyway? I guess it is better to recoup $40 a bottle than to reduce the living daylights out of it in a Sunday Bolognese on my stovetop. On the flip side, I am selling cellar prizes such as the ’85 Sassicaia, ’86 Lafite, ’86 Margaux ,’82 Penfolds Grange Hermitage, some La Conseillante, 92 Phelps Insignia, and a smattering of prized Chateauneuf du Pape. Writing about this makes me squirm. I try to comfort myself knowing it created an unnoticeable dent in my cellar, I have more wine that I know what to do with, and I am only auctioning off one of each with a couple of remaining identical bottles. But once again, why am I doing this to myself?
I reached a point of disgust. Look at the following data for 1986 Chateau Lafite Rothschild:
I think I paid $75 for the wine in 1989. About $10 a glass. Since 2003 the average hammer price has climbed 7.5 X. My $10 a glass wine is now $270 a pour. What recession? Thanks to the Chinese, speculators, Robert Parker, investors, and willing market makers there is no recession in collectible wine. Have a glimpse at the Liv-ex 100, an industry benchmarking market maker:
I am a seller now because it is time to get my pound of flesh, to exact revenge from the personalities and forces that drove these wines out of reach for so many enthusiasts who can no longer afford to stock their cellars with these classic wines. I am doing my part by giving speculators some of their own medicine by selling them MY wine at THEIR prices. And with THAT money, I will reinvest in some of the most beautiful wines made in the world that do not have the status, pedigree, or collectible reputations to capture their attention.
The shopping is going to be so much fun. I am going to turn 19 wines into 75-100 bottles of $25-$100 new releases from Loire, Piedmont, Spain, southwest France, Washington State, Germany, Austria and elsewhere. I will drink those wines freely and without guilt, each turn of the corkscrew erasing a fraction of the guilt I generated waving good bye to wines I cared for over twenty years, having patiently waited to inspect their advancing profiles.
Whether or not WineBid is the right market maker for me, and whether or not I sell above reserve pricing, I will get my pound of flesh. It’s just not right what happened to fine wine prices, and the genre of demand that forced prices upward is no different than the market forces behind recent collapses in the housing and financial markets. The whole thing is unnatural, and I refuse to drink MY wine at THEIR prices. Stay tuned here at WineZag and I will document the sales process, how things go with WineBid, and my entire post-sale rehabilitation period in wine shops across the country.