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When the Local Wine Shop Won’t Do, Auctions Offer Elusive Bottles: Online Bottle Shop
When the hammer went down on Helmut Fallmann’s second bid on a lot of limited-edition bottles of Tuscan wines, his cellar increased by eight bottles, while his bank account decreased by $22,000.
Mr. Fallmann, an Austrian technology entrepreneur, flew to New York City this spring to participate in Ornellaia’s Vendemmia d’Artista, a charity auction in its ninth year that commissions artists for special-edition bottles. This year’s edition, organized by Sotheby’s, took place at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and included a reception and gala dinner.
Mr. Fallmann, 51, is part of a sector of wine drinkers who, in addition to buying off the shelf for everyday drinking, use wine auctions to pursue particular and sometimes elusive bottles.
With a preference for Italian and Left Bank Bordeaux wines, and large-format bottles (magnums, double magnums and imperials, in wine parlance), Mr. Fallmann estimates his cellar at more than 2,000 bottles. He started purchasing through auctions about five years ago and noted, “It is a great way to complete my collection.”
While he researches on his own, he also registers his interests with auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Munich Wine Company, an online auction site, and relies on personal relationships in the wine industry to advise him on purchasing events.
“If you’re at an enjoyable level of drinking wine, it makes sense to stick to your local market, but if you’re focused on specific wines, it makes sense to participate in auctions,” said Jamie Ritchie, worldwide head of wine for Sotheby’s.
Mr. Ritchie noted that Bordeaux and Burgundy remain the most important areas for collectors, but there is increasing demand for wines from Napa Valley, France’s Rhone Valley, and Italy’s Piedmont region.
Collectors who buy at auction often do it for both prestige and the investment potential. And if they’re buying wines at auction to drink, it’s often for a special vintage, like their birth year, or an event such as a collectors’ dinner themed around a vintage or a region, said John Foy, owner of the Wine Odyssey consultancy, who buys wines at auction for private collectors.
“All the collectors I know drink well (the base line) to very well, to way beyond normal wine drinkers,” he said.
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