Wine sales offer opportunity for collectors

NEW YORK. Tue Apr 21, 2009 12:35pm EDT

A Bulgarian wine selector tastes red wine from the latest vintage on January 28, 2005, choosing wines for the Vinaria wine fair in Plovdiv. WREUTERS/Stoyan Nenov SN/WS

A Bulgarian wine selector tastes red wine from the latest vintage on January 28, 2005, choosing wines for the Vinaria wine fair in Plovdiv. W

Credit: Reuters/Stoyan Nenov SN/WS

NEW YORK. (Reuters Life!) - Vintage Bordeaux, Champagne and White Burgundies are among the 613 lots of wines, including more than 200 from one client, that will go under the hammer at Christie's auction house this weekend.

Prices of fine wines have fallen since last spring and wine consultant Judy Beardsall believes the April 25 sale could be a good time for collectors.

"These are long, long-term investments," Beardsall, who has built up her business over 20 years, said in an interview.

"Wine collecting is a lot like gardening. At a time like this, it's a chance to turn over the soil in the garden, put down some stock for the next generation," she added.

Lower wine prices have brought out the buyers. Sotheby's auction on Saturday fetched more than $2.9 million, above its presale estimate of $1.8 million to $2.6 million.

"We continue to see many new buyers coming into the market," said Sotheby's Jamie Ritchie, adding that 22 percent of the bidders were new.

Two weeks earlier, Chicago's Hart Davis Hart's sale brought in just under $2.7 million, also surpassing its presale estimates of up to $2.4 million.

"What I look for are fair market values for wine," Beardsall said, adding that lower prices are a good time to buy younger vintages.

Beardsall has more than 200 lots from one client going under the hammer in the Christie's sale. She said her client, whom she described only as a wealthy New York family that has been collecting for more than 20 years, is entertaining less.

"So rather than letting it languish in the cellar, why not let someone else enjoy it?" she explained.

"It comes down to knowing what to buy and when to buy it and where to buy it and how much to pay and when to sell it and where to sell it and which wines to sell," the author of "Sniffing the Cork" explained.

All the wines she has put up for auction are ready to be drunk, including the '96 Latour.

"You could drink it now, but it would be interesting to try a bottle from the case you buy and see if it wouldn't be better just to wait a bit longer. It's ready, but it hasn't peaked by any means," she explained.

Beardsall has weathered other downturns in the wine market, including the 1990s when she said there were great wines at great prices but buyers were too scared to buy.

"It was a tremendous value at that time. So this time, is also an opportunity."

She likens her role to that of an art consultant to a collector. Her advice to clients is simple.

"Buy more than you can possibly drink, and when it comes to maturity, sell some and keep the rest. And with the money from that sale, do the same again."

(Editing by Patricia Reaney)

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