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A decade ago, I owned two bottles of 2000 Pavie, which I decided to sell. To do so, I resolved to learn how to auction wine online. At the time, I hadn’t sold any wine online before; I didn’t know which websites were the most trustworthy. After some research and recommendations from my tasting group, I found an online marketplace that not only helped me sell off my Pavie, but also took care of other details like photos and shipping. Today, I sell all of my wine online because it’s more convenient than selling through traditional auction houses.
However, finding the right auction website for your wine can be a challenge. There are dozens of online auction marketplaces to choose from, and not all of them are completely reliable or easy to use. To auction your wine online successfully, you need to:
- Appraise the value of your bottles.
- Research the auction platform’s scope and audience.
- Negotiate a fair seller’s fee.
- Ship the wine safely to the company’s warehouse.
- Keep track of your sales.
If it’s your first online auction experience, paying attention to each of these steps should make the process feel more manageable; once you’ve sold a bottle or two at auction, you’ll have a feel for how it should go.
Step One: Appraise Your Wine
By appraising the wine you plan to sell, you’ll get a better sense of what your wine is worth and you can reject any auction platforms that undervalue your collection and start the bid off at a price that is too low.
To get an idea of the value of your bottles, start by researching average prices online through trustworthy sources such as Liv-ex. Once you have a base price, take into account your wine’s storage conditions. If your wine is in professional storage, it will command a higher price compared to wine that is currently sitting in your cellar or a self-service storage locker.
The best auction services even have experts available to discuss prices with you directly and offer data-driven recommendations.
Another option is to seek out auction services that have experienced wine appraisers on staff. It’s in the auction website’s best interest to sell your wine for the highest price possible, so these full-service platforms will carefully inspect your bottles for quality and value. The best services even have experts available to discuss prices with you directly and offer data-driven recommendations. If your wine is high in value (worth at least $200 per bottle), then it’s a good idea to only sell your wine on auction platforms that include these appraisal services.
Step Two: Research the Website’s Audience
Auctioning wine online requires more than just accurate appraisals–you also need to understand the service’s core audience of buyers. Someone looking for a $15 bottle of Argentinian Malbec will very likely not be interested in buying a 100-point bottle of Latour. In most cases, these two buyers will shop for wine online from very different websites that cater to their specific needs. The fewer serious collectors there are on the platform, the fewer bids your rare, collectible wine will receive.
To find your ideal audience of buyers, see which bottles the website is currently featuring on its home page and what is currently–or was recently–up for auction.
As an example, one of my friends recently tried to sell a few bottles of 2013 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino on an auction site that typically focuses on fairly inexpensive, early-drinking table wines. This Brunello vintage regularly sells for $90 per bottle or more, however, at the end of the auction, his bottles sold for less than $80 apiece. My friend wishes he had chosen a different auction service–one that caters to collectors who appreciate the value of Casanova di Neri wines.
While you can’t control exactly how much your bottles sell for at auction, you do have some control over who sees them. Choosing auction services that specialize in the type of wine you want to sell will ensure that your wine will be seen by buyers who are willing to pay a fair price for quality. You won’t have to educate an experienced collector on the value of 1999 Bouchard Père et Fils La Romanée, as they will already know how rare this wine is. To find your ideal audience of buyers, see which bottles the website is currently featuring on its home page and what is currently–or was recently–up for auction. Sometimes, an auction company will have a reputation for selling a lot of wine from certain regions (like Bordeaux). These sites will draw many collectors interested in and knowledgeable about that specific region or variety, and you will be likely to get a fair price for your wine.
Step Three: Negotiate the Seller’s Fee
If you’re learning how to auction wine online for the first time, navigating sellers’ fees is one of the most confusing steps in the process. That’s because every service has a different set of shipping fees, storage costs, commission rates, and insurance requirements. Here are a few common fees that you’ll encounter when you auction your wine online:
- Flat Commission Fee: The auction company takes the same percentage of the final sale for every bottle sold.
- Sliding Scale Commission Fee: The fee varies depending on the bottle’s appraised value, vintage, condition, or the quantity of bottles sold as a set or a single lot. The fee usually ranges from 1% to 18%; however, a 6% percent fee is most common.
- Shipping Fee: If the auction company doesn’t offer complimentary shipping, then you’ll have to pay to transport the bottles yourself. Costs vary depending on the number of bottles being shipped, the state you live in, and the time of the year (it costs more to ship wine in the summer because overnight shipping is necessary). If you live nearby the company’s facilities, you may be able to drop the bottles off in person.
- Insurance Coverage: Some auction websites require insurance coverage for your bottles and will charge 1% of the wine’s estimated value to cover the bottle as it’s transported and stored. You may request a waiver of this fee if your wine is already insured.
It’s not always wise to choose the auction service with the lowest fee. While it is important to compare fees between different auction services, you also need to consider the benefits that each auction platform provides. For example, a company that offers a full-service 15% commission fee may actually be a better value than a website that offers a 6% commission fee. That’s because the 15% full-service fee covers everything from shipping and insurance to storage and active marketing. If the auction service doesn’t include these services with the fee, then these additional costs add up quickly. But you’ll also want to take into consideration how much wine you’re selling and what its value is; you may not need a full-service company for a couple of bottles of $50 wine.
After you’ve compared fees and benefits for the auction services that cater to your ideal audience of buyers, speak directly with an auction sales associate to ensure that all of the auction fees are transparent. The auction service should offer you a detailed estimate of not only your bottle’s anticipated sales value, but also the cut that they will take from the final sale. After you have this estimate in hand, you’ll ship your bottles to the auction platform’s storage facility and wait for your wine to go up for auction.
Step Four: Ship Your Wine to the Warehouse
Shipping costs aren’t the only consideration when you sell your wine at auction. Pay attention to how the company plans to transport your wine from your home to the company’s storage facilities. Poor shipping practices may negatively impact the sale of your bottles. If you plan on selling a bottle of 2007 Salon at auction, but the bottle is broken before it reaches the warehouse, you may lose out on your investment completely. Most trustworthy auction companies insure bottles or require bottle insurance before they agree to sell your wine.
Trustworthy online auction companies will also caution you against selling your wine during the hottest or coldest months of the year in order to prevent damage or shipping delays.
Before you ship your wine to the warehouse, ask your sales associate how the wine will be transported or what they require from you to ship the wine properly. Full-service auction websites will handle all of these shipping details for you by providing you with:
- A sturdy, insulated shipping container.
- Overnight shipping whenever possible.
- Thorough bottle inspection upon arrival.
- Safe, overnight shipping to buyers.
Trustworthy online auction companies will also caution you against selling your wine during the hottest or coldest months of the year in order to prevent damage or shipping delays. These services may also protect your investments in the event that shipping damage occurs; some companies offer to pay you for the full estimated value of your bottle if it’s damaged.
In general, you should avoid websites that don’t offer any clear shipping protections or instructions. If you have to ship the wine to the warehouse yourself, be aware that you may be responsible for the protection of the shipment and the company might not offer you any refund or payment if the bottle arrives damaged.
Step Five: Track Your Wine Sales
What happens after you’ve shipped your wine to the warehouse? You might think that there’s nothing more for you to do but wait for your check to roll in. However, you should keep an eye on your wine sales if you want to get the best return on your investment. The best wine auction sites provide you with tracking software or apps that allow you to see how your bottles are currently selling. This dashboard may include data about the number of bidders, the current price, how long the wine has been on the market, and how much time is left before the auction closes.
Actively monitoring your sales can help you maximize your profits.
Knowing this information lets you use it to market your wine more heavily or take other steps to make the most profit from each bottle. For example, your wine might need to be advertised to more buyers who have a history of purchasing wine from that producer or region. Or, you might need to add a few recent critics’ reviews to the wine’s description to increase buyer confidence. In this way, actively monitoring your sales can help you maximize your profits.
How to Auction Wine Online: The Most Reliable Method
Once you’ve identified a trustworthy auction website that will offer you the greatest value for your wine, the process of selling via auction should be fairly simple. When you’ve made a few sales on the platform, contact your sales associate to see if the website offers any perks to its frequent sellers. These benefits may include preferred access to wine allocations, lower rates on storage and sales fees, lower shipping rates, and exclusive access to special wine events. These benefits make the selling process more cost-efficient and convenient.
While auctioning your wine online is one way to make a profit from your collection, it’s not the only method available to you. Websites like Vinfolio also offer full-service options to wine enthusiasts looking to sell wine from a private collection. For example, Vinfolio advertises your wine directly to over 50,000 contacts via email and other marketing channels. Moreover, the platform offers you specific recommendations about the next steps you can take to increase sales. Becoming a trusted, frequent seller with a popular online marketplace will help you sell your bottles at the highest price possible and make room in your cellar for even more spectacular wine.
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s finest 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.