Q: How does one determine whether a particular wine is worthy of collecting (i.e. has the potential to appreciate in value)? Are most of the wines worth collecting those which are very expensive to start with or can less expensive but highly rated wines from highly rated vintages also be worthy? -- James
A: Of all the wines made in the world, only a small percentage have the potential to improve with age. And of this group, only a small percentage have proven the ability to appreciate in value. This set of blue-chip wines can be considered "worthy of collecting" from an investment point of view.
In general, these collectibles come from established producers with long track records in the best regions, and thus tend to be relatively expensive even as new releases. A less-established, less-expensive wine can increase in value if it is highly-rated, especially if it comes from an exceptional vintage, a rising tide that can lift many boats. However, a wine with little history at auction does not stand a great chance of future appreciation. What's more, commercial auction houses are unlikely to accept such a consignment.
Probably the best way to determine a wine's collectibility is to scroll through the listings contained in the Auction Price Database found in the Collecting section of the Wine Spectator web site. These wines all have a history at auction and you can compare prices over several quarters of activity.
Just keep in mind that the auction world has been turned on its head over the last two months due to the world financial slump. We'll have to see what kind of market emerges in January once the corrections have been made.
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