(left) the cellars at chÂteau pÉtrus; (below) a case of 2000 pÉtrus is currently worth nearly $36,000.
Wines at Auction Not all wine ages well, and only a small fraction tends to have collectible value. Here, a quick guide to some wines that have consistently appreciated over time.
Little wonder, then, that a superlot of Romanée-Conti recently sold for more than $1.6 million at an auction conducted by Sotheby’s wine division. The lot consisted of six bottles from each vintage from 1992 through 2010, 114 in total. The result wasn’t surprising, considering that a single case of the 1990 had sold for slightly more than $120,000 at auction three years earlier. Both of the Sotheby’s auctions took place in Hong Kong, the current epicenter of demand for fine wine. Asian collectors have been bidding up the price of Bordeaux and Burgundy for nearly a decade, with Château Lafite-Rothschild emerging as the region’s ultimate prize. Prices have now cooled, but at their peak a case of Lafite from a noteworthy vintage sold for two or three times as much in Hong Kong as in London or New York. On the surface, then, it would seem that blue-chip wine is the ultimate collectible—but, like any other investment, it has its pitfalls. Someone buying fine wine as an investment needs to have pristine storage conditions (constant levels of temperature and humidity, with backup generators to guarantee the environment). They must be prepared to hold the wine for years and sometimes decades. They must display sound judgment in choosing vintages; a case of 2000 Château Pétrus, for example, is currently worth nearly $36,000, while a case of the 2004 would sell for one-third as much. Above all, they have to realize that constantly accelerating prices are not guaranteed: Ultimately, wine is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Choose wisely the next time you bid on a bottle at auction. But even if your wine doesn’t appreciate significantly in price, the good news is: You still have the consolation of drinking it. ◗ 40
Bordeaux: The First Growths (Lafite, Mouton, Latour, Margaux and HautBrion); Petrus, Ausone, Cheval Blanc and Le Pin; Château d’Yquem; most wines from the 1855 Classification Burgundy: Domaine de la RomanéeConti; top small growers such as Coche-Dury, Comte Lafon and Domaine Leroy Rhone Valley: Hermitage la Chapelle from Paul Jaboulet; the singlevineyard Cote-Rotie from Guigal (La Mouline, La Turque and La Landonne) Italy: Sassicaia; Ornellaia; Solaia by Antinori; Biondi-Santi Brunello; the single-vineyard Barbarescos from Gaia (Sori Tilden, Costa Russi and Sori San Lorenzo) California: The cult Cabernets (Screaming Eagle, Harlan Estate, Bryant Family, Grace Family); select wines from Araujo, Colgin, Dalla Valle, Diamond Creek, Opus One Champagne: Vintage-dated Krug, Salon, Dom Pérignon and Salon Port: The best vintages (1963, 1970, 1977, 1994 and 2000) from the top producers (Dow, Graham, Fonseca, Taylor Fladgate)
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