Charles Curtis, M.W. on Buying Wine at Auction

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Buying wine at auction can intimidate even the most passionate wine lovers. But with a little preparation, it is a great way to build a collection.

“It’s a misconception that only super expensive wines are at auction,” says Charles Curtis, MW, and former Head of Wine for Christie’s auction houses in Asia and the Americas. “You can buy wine at auction all day and not spend a fortune. It’s a matter of having the discipline to buy well.”

Curtis advises: Only buy wines from a reputable auction house. Before you go, you should decide which types of wine you want to add to your cellar. Know the lots on offer. Research the going price for the lots you that are of interest to you. Pay attention to the condition of the wine. Finally, decide which lots you want to bid on, bid up to that point and stop.

Curtis adds, “What you don’t want to do is say, ‘So-and-so is having a wine auction. Let’s check it out!’” Auctions can be where greed, gluttony and drunkenness converge. They will feed you and pour you nice wines before the bidding starts. You have to make it like homework. After you do your research, make a little spreadsheet and stick to it! Otherwise, when a lot comes up that you really want, you may bid until all of the sudden you’ve paid 40% more than the market price. Yet with a little preparation and discipline, you could build a cellar of mature treasures at a very reasonable price.