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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Wine Cellar Investments

An article entitled "The Best Restaurants For Wine Lovers" is featured in the current issue of Wine Spectator magazine (with category lists of the 3,955 award winners). The award winners are also featured in the dining guide which is formated by country and region. You can find lots of winners in major American cities. New York has the most winners of any city - 196.

In the same issue, Harvey Steiman points out new trends with an old American favorite titled "The New American Steak House" with a focus on high profile chefs. In his excellent article, he states: "The classic steak-house wine cellar focuses on Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux." Only two of the 48 American winners of the Grand Award were steak houses. Many steak houses are listed in the broader award category named "Award of Excellence" since their inherent focus on reds keeps them from inclusion in the Grand Award list.

Some of the wines which may distinguish a Grand Award winner from an Award of Excellence winner are featured in a August 3, 2007 Wall Street Journal article "First Growths Make Their Debut" written by Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher. The 2004 first-growth Bordeaux wines are the focus. They mention the significant drop in price for first growth wines in 2004 vs. 2003 (one of the finest vintage years).

Should you invest in these first-growth Bordeaux bottles at an average of $301 per 750 ML?

Unless you are committed to a long term quest for the Grand Award, you may want to spend your $301 on a full case of popular domestic wine. My experience includes 10 clients with significant wine inventories. In every study, the revenue generated by top vintage Bordeaux bottles was minor in relationship to total wine sales. I'm sure many wine shops experience a similar phenomenon. Most of the wine revenue will be generated by popular, more affordable bottles.

Storage of high priced wine is a major issue. The security needs to be the primary focus. Two of my clients had vaults with doors similar to those seen in a bank. In addition to security costs, the storage needs to be climate controlled. If these vintage wines are moved too often or are kept at improper temperature and humidity levels, they will lose their value.

The chairman of the corporation I worked for before starting my company sent a gift to a partner of a firm in New York to thank him for a personal favor. The gift, a case of vintage French Bordeaux, was very generous. Unfortunately, the partner called our New York office to inform us the wine had turned to vinegar.

The wine distributors now offer "six packs" with a selection of vintage bottles to help restaurateurs feature more top rated wines without investing in a full case for each label.

Very few restaurants can justify the investment required to gain entry into the elite Grand Award list. I believe the risk outweighs the potential reward.

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