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Selling your wine involves more than knowing how much your bottles are worth. You could own an incredibly rare Lafite Rothschild vintage, but if you don’t know the best way to sell it, you might miss out on hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of dollars in profits. You should consider the best price to charge for your wine, as well as which selling platform will meet your needs. You’ll also want to take advantage of yearly market trends to attract the perfect buyer. Here are the major steps in the wine selling process:
- Determine when it’s time to sell your wine
- Calculate the exact value of your bottles
- Find a reliable selling platform that attracts the right buyers
- Sell your bottles during peak market months
- Safely ship the wine to your buyers via a trustworthy wine sales company
Timing Is Everything
How do you know whether your wine is ready for the market? Most collectors have four reasons for selling their bottles:
You’ve run out of space in your cellar.
You want extra money in your budget to buy more wine.
Your bottles are close to their peak maturity.
You’re bored with the wines you have, and want to buy exciting new vintages.
New collectors frequently run into the first problem on the list above. If you buy too much wine too quickly, and you have limited storage, such as in a home cellar or wine fridge, then you’ll have to make room for new bottles by selling or drinking the ones you already own. In this case, the wines worth selling are any bottles that you’ve lost interest in over the years, or that you have no desire to drink in the future.
If your budget is tight but your cellar still has plenty of room (or you store your wine in a professional storage warehouse), then you might choose to sell some of your more valuable bottles in order to buy more wine. In this case, only sell wines that are close to peak maturity in order to make the most profit.
For wines that are approaching maturity, decide when they will be most profitable to sell. First, research tasting notes on your bottles to get the most up-to-date information on when they’re most likely to reach their peak, then sell them about one year before this date. Buyers typically pay more for a fully mature wine that is ready to drink, or will be soon.
The last option on the list is for collectors who primarily drink their collection, rather than collecting in order to make a profit. If this is your situation, you’re the type of collector who gets bored even with a cellar full of the best Bordeaux–you need to mix things up, and that might mean selling some of that Chateau Pontet-Canet and replacing it with Biondi-Santi and Levy & McClellan. Just don’t feel bad about it–life is too short to be bored with your wine.
In addition to these four reasons, other major life changes like debt, a death in the family, divorce, or the need to downsize can cause you to sell your bottles. In any of these sudden and unexpected cases, it’s best to hire a cellar expert to help you sort through your bottles, which saves you time and generally results in higher profits.
What’s the Value of Your Wine?
Collectible fine wine has inherent value and real value. Inherent value comes from the wine itself. The way it was made, including the terroir on which the grapes were grown, the classification of the wine, the producer’s reputation, and the techniques the winemakers used to process the grapes all give the wine inherent value. Real value comes from what happens after the wine is already bottled, such as how it was stored and how many owners it has had in its lifetime.
A wine must have both of these types of value in order to sell for the highest profit. Look at the list of qualities below, and count how many accurately describe your wine:
These are qualities that tend to increase the value of wine on the market. The more of these your wine has, the more valuable it’s likely to be:
Premier Cru or Grand Cru classification (or the regional equivalent)
A producer rated with a score of at least 25 on Vinfolio’s producer quality guide
High vintage quality & weather conditions
An average critic rating of at least 90 out of 100, or 18 out of 20
The wine is especially rare (less than 100 cases made)
The wine was stored in-bond
You bought the wine En Primeur
You stored the wine in a professional warehouse for its entire life
A wine with none of these qualities might not be very valuable
A wine with 1-2 of these qualities could be valuable, though not always
A wine with 3-4 of these qualities is very likely valuable
A wine with 4 or more of these qualities is a relatively safe market bet
A wine with all of these qualities is a true blue chip vintage
A wine that doesn’t have any of these qualities likely isn’t worth selling on the secondary market, whereas a wine with all of these qualities will be among the most valuable vintages in the world. For instance, grapes that come from the best terroirs in Burgundy sell for five times the price of grapes grown in less desirable vineyards in the same region. Additionally, critics who give a wine a perfect score will increase that wine’s value by as much as 45 percent, sometimes more. You can highlight these factors to pique a buyer’s interest.
Most auction houses and professional wine sales platforms prefer to sell bottles that come from good storage conditions and have excellent provenance. This is why storing your wine professionally is better for your investments than storing in a home cellar. Wines stored under bond will give you an even greater profit. When you store under bond, you not only prove that your wine is authentic, but you avoid taxes after the sale. VAT and duty tax for wine can reach more than 20 percent of your bottle’s total value. This means that you’ll make at least 20 percent more profit by selling your wine under bond. However, it’s not as common to store wine under bond in the United States as it is in Europe.
To find the exact value of your bottle, research average prices for the bottle online. Next, consider your wine’s inherent and real value, located in the list above. The more of these values correspond with your wine, the more you can charge for it. Some sales platforms will also offer expert advice on how much your bottles are worth, making it more likely that you’ll sell your bottle for the highest possible profit.
Find Your Selling Platform
Once you understand the value of your wine, you’ll need to know how to sell to specific buyers looking for niche vintages. There are three main types of buyers who purchase fine wine:
- Cult and rare wine enthusiasts
- Blue chip investors
- Buyers focused on one region, producer, or varietal
Different selling platforms appeal to these specific markets. Your choices are:
In-person auctions usually appeal most to blue chip investors looking for the most popular, valuable bottles in the world. A trustworthy auction house already has a large audience of these types of collectors, making it easy for you to find a buyer. The downside is that auction sales fees can be steep. If you have sought-after vintages from top producers, and you’re willing to pay a higher fee, an auction house might be the right choice for you.
Online Wine Marketplace
- More convenient for buyers than an in-person auction
- Bottles stay in safe storage while buyers bid
- Can charge a flat fee
- Experts help you decide price
- Shipments to buyers included
- Bottles inspected before selling
- Have to pay a small selling fee
- Buyers can’t see the wine in-person
Online marketplaces appeal to a wider range of collectors than in-person auctions. Rare wine collectors, blue chip investors, and niche buyers love online auctions and sales because it’s easier to search for a particular producer and vintage, and to compare prices. Trustworthy online marketplaces also inspect bottles before they sell, which gives your buyers peace of mind. As long as you use a seller that cares about bottle quality and offers refunds to customers for broken or spoiled bottles, this is a good selling option for nearly every collection.
- Very low sales fee (in some cases, none)
- Full control over bottle price
- Have to handle shipments yourself
- Have to decide price without an expert’s help
- No filtering of buyers
- Need to get a wine seller’s license
Selling your wine by yourself online or in-person is much more difficult and risky; selling wine on your own, without a license, is illegal in the U.S. Even if you have a legal selling license, you won’t necessarily have a built-in audience of buyers. Additionally, collectors buying valuable wines that are worth thousands of dollars will be wary of purchasing them from an unknown seller. Use this sales option only if you already have a specific buyer who has shown interest in your wine, and if you take every legal precaution first. You could face a fine or jail time if you sell wine illegally online.
Sell by Season
Take extra care when you sell your wine during the hottest or coldest months of the year. Poor weather conditions make it more difficult to ship wine safely. This increases shipping costs for your buyer, causes shipping delays, and makes it more likely that your buyer will send the wine back due to weather damage. Selling your wine in the spring and fall months is best; the weather is usually mild enough during these seasons to prevent temperature damage. However, the best wine selling platforms have year-round shipments available. They take extra precautions in the coldest and warmest months to make sure the bottles arrive safely.
In addition, some wines sell more frequently during certain times of the year. For instance, Champagne sells best during the late fall and early winter, shortly before the holiday season. Wines like White Burgundy and rose sell most often in the late spring and early summer, when they reach their peak popularity. You should also consider selling most of your excess bottles in the early spring, just before you order your next allocations, so that you have plenty of room for new wines in your cellar. Start the selling process as early as possible, preferably in the winter, to ensure that you have enough space for your wine.
What Happens After Your Buyer Bids
If you sell your wine via auction house or online marketplace, shipping is usually already included. The professional sellers already have contracts with shipping companies–you simply supply the wine. However, if you decide to sell the wine on your own, you’ll need to consider a complex set of legal steps before your buyer can buy it. You must:
- Get a wine-selling license through your state
- Get approval from your state to ship wine to your buyer’s location
- Check that your buyer’s state allows wine shipments (it is illegal to ship wine to certain states, like Utah)
- Contact a trustworthy shipping company
- Pack the wine according to the company’s standards
- Send the wine to your buyer
In some cases, you might be denied a shipping license, which means you can’t sell your wine at all. This is why the sales fees for auction houses or online marketplaces are often worth the extra cost. Here’s what happens when you ship via an online marketplace:
Buyer bids on a wine and wins
Vinfolio takes a small cut from the sale & gives the rest to the original owner
Vinfolio unpacks the wine from its shipping warehouse & inspects it
option A: Vinfolio uses white glove shipments for local buyers
option B: Vinfolio safely packs and ships the wine to other states
The buyer receives the wine, along with a receipt of storage & purchase
The buyer can request a refund if the wine is damaged
The last step is the most important one for your buyers. A collector who spends thousands of dollars on a top-tier bottle of DRC wants to ensure that the bottle they are buying is authentic and reaches them safely. Selling your wine through other websites like eBay doesn’t necessarily guarantee authenticity or a refund for heat damage. Experienced collectors prefer to shop with retailers who offer them shipping that’s specifically designed with wine in mind.
How to Sell Your Wine, Based on Your Needs
The way you sell your wine depends on the type of collection you have, and who your ideal buyer is.
Collectors who only invest in the most iconic bottles in the world need to market their wines to the same type of collector. For these types of collections, Vinfolio’s Fixed Price Auction is a good choice. This platform is designed for collectors who own high-value bottles worth at least $10,000 combined, which have high critic scores. Experts help you determine the best price, and the fees are based on a sliding scale.
If your own collection is somewhere in-between a casual drinker and a serious investor, an online wine marketplace will offer the most options. With Vinfolio’s marketplace, you can set the price or starting bid for your wine, and there’s a 15 percent fee for this service. However, you can also opt for no-fee in-store credit. This is an excellent option for collectors who want to replace the bottles they already own with something new of equal value.
Knowing how to sell your wine isn’t complicated once you consider your needs. The key to any successful wine sale is to focus on what’s important to you, whether that’s replacing older bottles with new ones or making the most money back on your investment.
Selling your high-end wine collection is a simple process with Vinfolio, your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to liquidate your finest bottles, and get access to the world’s best wine.
At Vinfolio, we help our clients buy, sell, store, and manage their most
treasured bottles of wine. But in our spare time, we’re just a group of
passionate and slightly obsessed oenophiles–we love sharing a great
glass of vintage Champagne, followed by a Burgundy, and then a
Bordeaux, to get things started. We’re always obsessing over the latest (and oldest) vintages, and we want to share that knowledge and passion with our readers.