How much do you trust auctions

A similar thread just started so it prompted this thread

Ive got limited experience with auctions, maybe 6 purchases but the following has happened to me.

1 - I bought some high scoring Carlisle wine from a reputable Chicago auction house, the wine was awful i didnt know it at the time but it was cooked. Until i learnt better i just thought Carlisle was rubbish

2 - I bought a high end Rhone from a Carolina auction house, it was a 98 point wine and it was awful

3 - Bought some Saxum from Winebid and it was great.

So how much do you trust the provenance of small lots of wine at auction houses ? how do we know they havent come out of a storage locker or been mistreated ?

You don’t know any better than buying the same wine at retail. I think many of us have developed a level of trust with certain retailers and/or auction houses. For me, the decision to buy is based on the price to risk ratio, buying only from what I consider reputable places. I haven’t been burned buying from either yet (I’ve had bad bottles but nothing that makes me suspicious of source). Do I trust auction houses? Yes, but no more than retail.

  1. i’m interested to know what was the auction house’s response when you brought the issue of cooked wines to their attention… i don’t think they are obligated to do anything but i’ve heard of auction houses going the extra mile in these situations…

  2. awful as in the wine was flawed or awful as in it didn’t fit your flavor profile?

  3. congrats.

Better to buy from producer and store

1 - It was a while later and it never occured to me to go back to the auction house, I just thought Carlisle was bad wine

2 - It was flawed, either cooked or corked or both but it was acidic, brown and yuck. It was 2005 Le Meal so no way was past its prime

3 - Yippee, what i bought was as advertised

Wow, what a great topic.

I trust auctions, in general - primarily for items I find intriguing rather than “must haves” or high priced items.

I tend to watch auctions for quirky finds, so not much in the way of fakery is likely.

After the counterfeit wine scandal at Acker, I quit looking there, but it used to be my first stop! (Losing my business is no big deal, I am small timer.)

I typically watch Winebid, K&L, and sometimes Heritage. Knowing Poppy was on board at Heritage was a real confidence builder - my trust in her integrity was a big part of my opinion of Heritage. I have lived in NorCal for almost three decades, so K&L is a trustworthy source for me. (I’ve never had a single less than perfect interaction with K&L.)

Like A Songuer says above, I generally try to buy from the winemaker and store. Auctions are amusing diversions for me.

Not so much about trust for me as risk, pricing the risk, and possibility of redress.

Any wine can be flawed regardless of provenance. If you buy from a reputable retailer you have a high chance of redress for faulty wine. The low risk is reflected in the price (full retail).

Buiying from sources that offer no redress is high risk, so you’re looking for a discount on full retail to take on the risk. If you believe storage provenance to be good you might accept a lesser discount, if you’re taking a flier it’s going to be higher. Personally I go for 20-30%, or considerably more for white Burgundy older than 6 years!

if the bottles are flawed, should really give the auction houses a chance to respond before writing them off completely.

The problem is that i dont think the auction houses deliberately sold flawed bottles, they acted in good faith.

It just seems that any individual with questionable ethics can sell a wine through auction with little chance of any comeback. The auction house cannot tell if the wine is good.

Hence, the importance of buyers giving feedback to the auction house - it helps them know who not to deal with!

Someone who’s sneaking crap to the auction house won’t get away with it if we give feedback.

It is buyer beware with auctions, no matter how reputable the auction house is. I factor in that I will get a small % of bad wine.
I have a few theories that I work to (which may or may not be correct).
I tend to shy away from buying whites and lighter reds.
Sometimes, you can make an educated guess on the source based on other offers or information that has been received. i.e like a winery clearing stock to make way for current vintage or an export contract falling through.
I’ll also look to private auctions, where the catelog is from a single vendor. More often than not, these will be either deceased estates or restaurant liquidations. If it is a well selected list, there is a fair chance that whoever built the list knew what they were doing, and would have stored correctly.

That may be what is in the terms and agreement of the auction, but most auction houses do not follow that to the letter. They want to build your trust and want you to continue buying from them. Any reputable auction house will take back wines (email you labels & schedule a FedEx pickup) and refund your money. If you abuse that too many times, then they will likely hold to the terms of the auction. If you are dealing with an auction house that will not work with you, then you are dealing with the wrong auction house.

I have almost entirely avoided auctions. Problem solved.

I’ve had several hundred bottles from Winebid over the years, mostly not recent vintage wines, and overall, my success rate was about as good as it is with wines I buy near release and store myself.

But I know others have had different experiences or perceptions, so I’m just speaking for myself.

And it might depend on what kind of wines you are mostly buying – for me, I was mostly buying interesting drinkers that weren’t trophy wines, hot collector’s wines, or wines that had likely changed hands in the past, and maybe that makes a difference.

“…mostly buying interesting drinkers that weren’t trophy wines, hot collector’s wines, or wines that had likely changed hands in the past.”

That’s a better way to say it than I said it.

I’ve bought a bunch from some of the auction houses (K&L, Zachy’s HDH, Winebid, Acker) and have had consistently good experiences. Before I got started I researched a lot here. Then I slowly have built trust over time. My feeling is that the major auction houses (especially in the post-Rudy days) have a huge incentive to bring quality products to market.

Out of close to 200 btl bought from Winebid over the past few years, I have not had a corked bottle or one that was anything but exactly as it was advertised. I avoid wines with any signs of seepage, big ullage. Has worked well for me. I’ve drunk at least 40 of them without a clunker.


Classic Chapoutier.

A local auction house was having an estate sale this weekend, on line only and I missed the preview.

The bottles looked sound but there was no note on provenance. The lots of Montelena Cab and Chard were appealing and I bid low based upon the uncertainty of provenance. The winning bids were 50-100% higher than mine. Oh well, I spared myself the potential of damaged goods.

In the past I have had 99% satisfaction with auction lots with the sole disappointment being a 1972 Burgundy which was returned for being incorrectly described. Stick with young releases and your luck will be better.