You’ve been with the Sotheby’s wine department for more than 25 years. What advice do you have for wine-auction neophytes?
The first thing I’d say is to call us, the wine department. We’re happy to give people help with what they’re looking for, what kinds of wine to bid on, how to bid and so on—it’s essentially free advice. Are they looking for wines to invest in? To drink? Or drink in 10 years? There’s zero fee for any of that.
What else would you suggest?
I’d watch out for buying too much wine that’s going to be ready to drink all at one time—buying cases and cases of one vintage of Bordeaux, for instance. Also, if you’re going to buy wine as an investment, keep in mind that there are relatively few wines that actually appreciate in value over time. Maybe 20 to 30 Bordeaux châteaus and 10 Burgundy producers, and only from the best vintages, make up the majority of the investment market.
Most auction news is about cases of ultra-rare, ultra-expensive wine. Are there still any steals to be had?
Always. There’s always value to be found, whether it’s a vintage, a winery or an area. For instance, wines that aren’t the main focus of a collection: Mixed lots [a case of 12 different bottles, for example] can be fun to drink and an incredible value. We had a lot of five bottles—1978 and 1981 Ducru-Beaucaillous, three 1981 Gruaud Laroses—that sold for $49 a bottle recently. [2014 Ducru-Beaucaillou is about $110.]