Cellar Overload: How to Auction Off Your Extra Wine

Posted November 10, 2014

Ian Dorin


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Over the last 10 years, we've seen a major increase in wine collecting. However, it has come with the tendency of loading up just a little too much, and running out of room to store new gems that you want to add to your collection. This leads collectors to a common question: “How do I unload this stuff, but manage to recoup some of my investment instead of just giving it away?”    

More than just overflowing cellars, wine auctions have become incredibly popular from a selling standpoint. Many of the top wines you may have purchased ten or more years ago have possibly increased in value; some even a considerable amount. While you may have only paid $300 per bottle for that case of 2000 Lafite back in 2002, it is now worth almost five times that. While not all wines appreciate this way, those rare situations can lead to quite a lucrative pay off.

So how do you go about auctioning your wine? It is surprisingly simple. First, the auction house comes to inventory your collection, and submits you an "appraisal". The appraisal gives you a reserve price, a low estimate, and a high estimate. Based on the condition of your wine, the prices can widely vary on the day of the auction, as well as market interest in that particular wine. The more rare and pristine the bottle is, the higher the return you can expect. Now let’s say you decide to move forward with the auction. Your wine is consigned to the auction house, who then lists it either in a live auction, or an online format if you have a smaller collection. Once your wine finds a happy new home, you'll be compensated with the amount that the wine is sold for. The buyer will pay a premium to the auction house (this percentage widely varies), which is how the auction houses make their money. Some of the auction houses will collect a varying percentage from the seller as well. And there you go! You just made money off of your wine collection. Cheers!

On the other hand, what if you’re the buyer? You could be looking to buy for a wide range of reasons, but generally as a buyer you want to consider condition as the most important factor in your decision to buy. Buying a wine of pristine condition and provenance can be a little bit more costly, but if you plan is to drink the wine, then it's worth paying the extra dollars. Keep in mind that the people that are buying at auctions have a wealth of wine knowledge, or have a professional helping them. If you think you’re going to find the deal of a lifetime, it's highly unlikely. You have to be prepared to pay the market price for a wine if you really, really want to own it.

Looking to make some extra room? Track down a birth year wine? Hopefully now you will have better guidance. Good luck!


With over 15 years of experience (and counting), Ian has risen to become Wine Director for the Wine Library. He also been featured in the Wall St. Journal, and has regularly been quoted in a variety of wine articles.