One of my colleagues hosts a lot of dinner parties at his home and goes through many bottles of wine at each of them. To make sure that he always has plenty of wine on hand, he buys his favorite easy-drinking wine by the case. This means he never has to shop for any special bottles for his parties or spend time figuring out whether the age-worthy bottles in his cellar are ready to drink.
Buying wine by the case is a great way to stock up on wine for a party, lay down birth year wine, or see how a top-rated vintage evolves over time. However, buying wine by the case isn’t always a simple process. For starters, not all retailers sell wine by the case. Even if you find a retailer that sells full or half cases of wine, it can sometimes be difficult to determine whether you’re getting a good deal. This guide will walk you through the buying process to help you decide which cases are worth investing in and how to care for the cases you buy.
The Benefits of Buying Wine by the Case
Buying wine by the case can be profitable for collectors in part because retailers often offer discounts for bulk purchases. I once bought a full case of 2015 Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages for less than $900. I would have paid nearly $100 more if I had purchased the 12 bottles individually.
The amount of money you’ll save buying wine by the case varies depending on which retailer you shop with and whether that retailer is offering any additional discounts or reduced shipping fees. For example, I like to buy cases of Champagne around the Christmas season because many retailers offer free shipping. Since this is a popular time of the year to drink Champagne, some retailers also reduce their prices in order to stay competitive. I’m usually only able to get a ten or 15 percent discount on a case but even this small cost savings makes the process worthwhile. Even without a discount, a case of high-quality wine that has aged for a few years usually sells at auction for a much higher price than it originally sold for. Full cases of excellent wine with perfect provenance are highly sought-after.
A case of wine keeps everything in one spot and prevents you from opening any of the bottles prematurely.
Beyond the cost savings, buying wine by the case also allows you to see how a wine ages over time. One of my friends bought a half case of 2000 Château Palmer shortly after release and has opened a bottle every few years to experience the wine as it develops. The process has let him taste how Bordeaux evolves and has also given him a better idea of when the vintage will reach maturity. He suspects that the wine will still need another decade of aging, at minimum, because it’s aging so slowly. Full or half cases of top-quality Burgundy, Bordeaux, and other sought-after wines can sometimes be hard to find on the market, but even if you aren’t able to get your hands on any, a case of quality wine that’s drinking well now makes an excellent “cellar defender” for your rarer, more age-worthy bottles. You’ll be less tempted to open that 2016 Domaine du Clos de Tart Clos de Tart Grand Cru if you also have a case of delicious premier cru wine from the Côte de Nuits that’s ready to drink right now.
One final reason why you might buy wine by the case is that it’s easier to keep track of your bottles. This is especially true when you lay down birth year wine. Over the decades, wines inevitably get accidentally drunk, sold, or given away. A case of wine keeps everything in one spot and prevents you from opening any of the bottles prematurely. And if you plan on reselling your bottles later, your wine can be safely shipped to a professional storage warehouse in the original case.
While there are many advantages to buying wine by the case, there are a few downsides you’ll want to keep in mind as well. Below we’ll talk about how to tell if buying by the case is the best idea for you.
Should You Buy Wine by the Case?
Whether buying by the case is the right choice for you and your collection depends on factors like how much storage you have available and how much wine you typically go through in a given period of time. Here’s a full list of pros and cons to consider before you buy:
In general, the benefits of buying wine by the case outweigh the cons; however, it depends on the goals you have for your collection. For example, some collectors like to keep their cellar as diverse as possible and get bored after drinking more than two or three bottles of the same wine. Another common reason why collectors choose to buy individual bottles, rather than cases, is that they don’t have enough space to keep more than a few cases in storage. Most small home cellars don’t lend themselves well to storing many full cases of wine.
However, if you use professional storage, plan on selling the case in the future, or want to drink your favorite wine as it ages, then buying by the case may be a wise decision. If you’ve decided that buying a case of wine is the right choice for you, here’s how to invest safely.
How to Buy a Case of Vintage Wine
One of my friends only buys full or half cases of a single vintage–he rarely buys individual bottles because having a complete, unopened case helps him prove its provenance, allowing him to resell his bottles for a higher price than the individual bottles would sell for. No matter what your plan for your case of wine is, here are some tips to help you get started:
Tip #1: Establish Provenance Early
Auction houses, wine shops, and online retailers that specialize in selling fine wine by the case should provide you with information about provenance, authenticity, and bottle condition. If you’re buying wine by the case in order to sell it on the market later, then you should seek out cases that have an unbroken chain of ownership from the winery to the current owner. Gaps in the timeline don’t necessarily mean that the wine is counterfeit or damaged, but when you’re investing in six or 12 bottles at a time, you can never be too careful. It’s a good idea to maintain higher provenance standards than when you buy bottles individually.
Tip #2: Research the Wine’s Value
Once you’ve determined that the case is authentic and in good condition, you should confirm that the retailer is asking a fair price for it. Mobile apps like the Vinfolio app and websites like Wine-Searcher provide the latest market information and can help you decide whether the case is priced accurately. Buying wine by the case won’t always be cheaper than buying the bottles individually, and older cases of wine may be more valuable because the case is intact and the provenance of every bottle is the same. You’ll want to be wary of cases being sold at a significantly higher price than they’re worth or for much less than the current market price. A 15 percent discount on a full case is reasonable, but a 40 percent discount is probably too good to be true.
Tip #3: Request Estimated Shipping Costs in Advance
If you’ve decided to invest in a particular case of wine, ask the retailer for shipping information before you pay for it. Shipping a full case of wine usually costs more than shipping just one or two bottles, so you’ll want to factor these additional costs into the total price of the case. Moreover, you should ensure that the retailer uses fast, reliable shipping methods–your case shouldn’t be sitting in a hot warehouse for days or handled roughly. I usually avoid ordering wine by the case during the summer or during cold spells–some retailers may refuse to ship wine in the winter or summer due to the risk of temperature damage.
Tip #4: Insure Your Bottles
Shipping insurance protects your case in the event that it’s damaged before it reaches its destination. However, it’s also important to insure your wine after it arrives. Because all six or 12 bottles are stored together, natural disasters or extreme temperatures are likely to damage all of the bottles. Insurance protects your investment.
Tip #5: Store the Case Immediately
Have your cases shipped directly to a professional storage warehouse or put them in storage yourself immediately. I once met a collector who bought two cases of Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino over the summer and set them in the corner of his poorly air-conditioned living room. There wasn’t much space in his cellar, so he planned on organizing it over the weekend to make room for the new cases. However, months later, he still hadn’t found the time to clean out his cellar and about a third of the wine ended up spoiled by the poor environmental conditions. This is why you should always make proper storage a priority when you buy wine by the case.
Buying Mixed Cases of Wine
Fine wine retailers generally sell cases of six or 12 bottles of the same vintage and label. However, some retailers also sell mixed cases of wine or give buyers the option to build their own wine cases from scratch. These mixed cases can be just as valuable as single-vintage cases, depending on the quality of the wine inside. The problem with mixed cases is that they aren’t always comprised of the most sought-after wines on the market. Some retailers will bundle less popular or valuable wines into a case to attract buyers. As a result, you may think that you’re getting a great deal on a case when in reality the case only has a couple great wines with the remaining, less-impressive wines acting as filler.
Some retailers offer small discounts if you buy six or 12 bottles of your choice at a time.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to do some research on every wine inside the case and add up their average estimated market values to determine whether the total price is fair. At the same time, you can also research tasting notes and scores to find out if the wines will appeal to your tastes. No matter how steep the discount may be, if you won’t enjoy the wine inside, then it isn’t worth the investment. This is why it’s also wise to avoid buying mystery cases.
Building your own mixed case from scratch helps you avoid some of these risks. Some retailers offer small discounts if you buy six or 12 bottles of your choice at a time. While these aren’t traditional cases (the wine wasn’t placed inside the case by the estate before release), they may come with some of the same benefits as a traditional case, including cost savings and convenience. You can also customize a mixed case based on your own preferences and needs. For example, if you usually attend a lot of holiday parties, you could build a mixed case of holiday wines like Champagne or Sauternes.
Here are a few different types of mixed cases:
These aren’t the only options if you want to build a mixed case from scratch, and your case doesn’t have to be based on a particular theme. However, using these mixed case options as a template may help you narrow down your choices and keep your collection more organized.
How to Store Cases of Wine
One of the challenges of buying wine by the case is that cases are difficult to store long-term. Even though wooden cases help you keep your bottles organized, they take up more space than the same number of individual bottles. However, when you invest in an unopened case, don’t take the bottles out of the container to store them, especially if you plan on reselling the case or your entire collection later. An untouched case of wine with excellent provenance is worth far more than a case of wine that’s been opened and later repacked.
A full-service storage warehouse has lots of experience storing cases, and if your wine is in its original wooden case, they will place it on a sturdy pallet and shrink wrap it in order to protect it from damage.
A professional storage warehouse is the perfect place to store cases of wine because, unlike your cellar or self-storage wine locker, it has nearly unlimited space. A full-service storage warehouse has lots of experience storing cases, and if your wine is in its original wooden case, they will place it on a sturdy pallet and shrink wrap it in order to protect it from damage. Later, if you decide to sell the case or try one of the bottles inside, the warehouse will prepare the case for transport using insulation and shipping labels that specify exactly how it should be handled. Using a full-service warehouse makes it possible to buy as many cases of wine as you’d like without worrying about where you’ll put them.
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.