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How do I know if a wine for sale has been stored well?

MaryAnn Worobiec
Posted: November 4, 2010

Q: How can I make sure that wines sold at auction have been properly stored in the right conditions? And how can I sell a collectible wine at an auction and prove it was well stored?—Mauro Ghielmetti, Los Angeles, Calif.

A: If by "auction" you mean a major auction house, you can be pretty certain that the collections they sell have been verified and documented, sometimes firsthand. But if you're talking about an auction on a smaller scale--say a single bottle between two wine lovers--there is much less accountability. The information available varies greatly--and there is no enforcement or wine auction police out there (though I'd like to apply for the job if there was.) It is always a risk to purchase a bottle this way. Sometimes it turns out to be a wonderful, delicious risk.

If you approach an auction house about selling your collection, they'll usually start by having you fill out a form describing the wines and storage conditions, and then they'll contact you and go from there. In some cases a visual inspection of your storage will occur. But keep in mind auction houses are interested in large collections with expensive, rare, highly collectible wines, not a single bottle here or there, which are generally not worth their time.

If you're selling some wine on a smaller scale, the more information you can provide about your storage conditions, the better. Show photos of the bottle, of the cellar. Explain why you're selling it. The more transparency you can give, the more appealing it will be to potential buyers.

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