Advice needed for sale of cellar

I am helping a friend sell his wine, a 1200 bottle collection of wines from a variety of regions, all with a decade or more of age. After sending his list to some brokers, I’ve gotten proposals that value the wine pretty similarly. Obviously I want my friend to get top dollar. He is not in a rush for the cash, so timing is not critical.

  • What are the advantages/disadvanges of auction v. consignment?

  • Do you have experience with any of the auction houses or retailers that you can pass on?

There are probably other questions I should ask, so don’t hesitate to enlighten me.

Many thanks for any help!

Hav e you directly contacted any auction houses? I used to use Acker Merrill over a decade ago and I used to get 3-4 times cost for Marcassin Pinots. Other wines, not nearly so much. I would send them and inventory list and they would send back estimates.

Sending the cellar to auction is a good way of getting it out of your hair a lot quicker if you would like to be done with that task. Some bottles might sell below what they should be worth, some bottles might sell for more.

If there is no rush, I’d recommend selling on consignment. The wines are still yours, and they are being sold at current retail prices. The downsides of consignment is it might take multiple years for the cellar to sell. We have some items in our shop still being sold on consignment from 5+ years ago. Some items may just never sell.

Another option is to sell the cellar to a retail shop. This might be more work for your friend however as they will probably have to price up every individual item. Maybe if you provide a inventory list the retailer can put bids in for each bottle, but in my experience the seller has a price listed for every item and we would accept that price or have a counter offer price.

If you use the search tool you could find tons of threads on this topic with some more advice. Here is one from last week ago: Who buys cellars?

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it mostly depends on the wines. if mostly high end / desired, then auction likely best bet.

if not, then selling outright to a broker could be better.

if time isn’t an issue and more effort is okay, you can split up the channels as well. you have to ultimately weight your desire to do it easily (one transaction with one party) vs chasing incremental dollars and spending more time.

if you can reply here with more detailed information on the collection or at least a general breakdown of the collection, you’ll get more informed feedback.

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Or, really, different auction houses have different interests. They’re upfront in what sorts of wines they’re interested in, and what the minimal value for that subset of wines makes dealing with you worth their effort. So, if there’s a lot of high-end stuff in multi-bottle, muchly case lots, the high-end houses might be interested.

I don’t know much about brokers. I suppose their skill is channeling wines to the best options, while taking a big cut as a middleman. Maybe that’s sometimes better, sometimes worse?

With a more normal cellar, or the remainder after most of the cases of gems get split off, I’d be talking to K&L and winebid. They both do handle very high-end wines, so might also be the best option for those. Depends. K&L had a higher standard and more particular interest. Some friends let K&L pluck out what they want and then send the rest to winebid to get what they think is the best price.

Where are you located? I live in Houston and have purchased a few cellars off folks. I usually inventory the wines and offer a % of WineSearcher, or offer a flat price based on a cursory review. A part of my “value add” is that I haul away all of the wines, and sometimes help with other chores around the house. I’ve enjoyed the folks I’ve met over the years.

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Physical location is very important. Selling or consigning a cellar in Los Angeles to a NY retailer or auctioneer can eat up quite a bit of value, and vice-versa. I’m assuming from your post that we are not talking about 1200 bottles of 4 or 5 figure trophies.

I’ve both consigned wines to auction and sold direct to appropriately licensed retailers (I haven’t consigned to retail).
Overall, I’ve been happier selling to retailers, COD, no percentage to the house. If some of the wines are DRC, Screaming Eagle and that ilk, auction is probably best. Otherwise, a local licensed retailer might be best.

Dan Kravitz

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