From left: Sterling overlay decanter, $2,400, Brooklyn’s Antiques, (720) 934-1264, brooklynsantiques.com; Sterling overlay decanter, $750, Brooklyn’s Antiques, (720) 934-1264 brooklynsantiques.com; Gothic-style sterling overlay decanter, $1,500, McDowell’s Antiques, (303) 777-0601 tias.com/stores/rma.Sterling & cut crystal wine coaster, $60, Brooklyn’s Antiques, (720) 934-1264, brooklynsantiques.com.
Wine Accessory “Must-Haves”
The popularity of wine antiques has skyrocketed along with growing interest and appreciation of wine. Wine antiques run the gamut from decorative (vintage posters, for example) to functional (corkscrews, funnels and jugs), and amazingly inexpensive to unbelievably costly. To truly open a bottle with style, hunt down an antique corkscrew, which can range from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars depending on age, material and rarity. Since they are easily shipped, acquiring a perfect conversation-piece corkscrew is as easy as a virtual visit to England's Corkscrew Centre for Antique Corkscrews, corkscrewcentre.com. Finding an old silver wine funnel (used in the decanting process to pour the wine from the bottle into the decanter) is easily done as most silver dealers carry examples of this popular collectible. Serious collectors seek out English Georgian funnels popular between 1770 and 1830. Alternatively, a wine antique can be as small as a coaster or as large as a wine rack. The possibilities for building a collection that speaks to your personal style are endless.
Smart and Stylish Wine Storage
Any oenophile (wine connoisseur) will tell you that the golden rule of storage is to ensure proper and consistent temperature (about 55 degrees F) If space and budget are tight, you might consider housing your small collection in a converted 1940s radio cabinet, or in a few stacked wooden wine crates. Larger collections can be impressively kept in French wine cages (cages a vin) which can hold as many as 200 or 300 bottles each. If your wine collection, cellar space and aspirations are grand, look to the Denver-based master stone masons of Tuscan Wine Cellars, (303) 927-6833, tuscanwinecellars.com, who proudly incorporate hand-forged iron elements and architectural antiques into custom-made Old World-style cellars.
Rare and Fine on the Block: A Wine-Buying Auction Primer
The auction block is one of the oldest arenas for fair market trading of wine. Last year, American wine auction activity reached an all-time high of $240 million dollars. Thanks to the Internet, many established and reputable wine retailers have found a new way to reach collectors. Bidding on a bottle or case at auction is an exciting way to find old, rare and fine bottles not available at your corner wine shop. Buy through a reputable wine auction house such as: Acker, Merrall & Condit, ackerwines.com; Hart Davis Hart Wine Company, hdhwine.com; and Napa Valley Vintners, napavintners.com.
A good catalogue should explain basic terms and desirability factors pertaining to your varietal or region of interest, and will always have a pre-sale estimate that represents an expert's opinion of what the lot is worth. Ask questions, know the maximum you wish to pay and stick to that figure. Vintage, like age, is relative. In collectibles, the term “vintage” refers to 20th century objects not yet old enough to be called an antique (an antique is generally considered to be 100 years or older.) Beware of this term when shopping for collectible old wines. For wine, “vintage” denotes something quite specific, and different. A vintage red Bordeaux, for example, can hail from 1894 or 2004. This moniker denotes a wine made from grapes that were all, or mostly, grown in a specific year (though individual countries and regions set their own guidelines in terms of exceptions and rules for using this designation.) Prices and prestigious labels aside, a great wine collection is one that grows as you do. It ages as you age and changes as your tastes change. A popular Cuban proverb says: “Cheese, wine and friends must be old to be good.” Why not dip your toes into this brave new world of online wine auctions and find an old bottle or two to add dimension to your cellar? Complete the experience with a few thoughtfully chosen antiques and you will be proud to share your cellar, and your wines, with friends.
Silver plate champagne bucket, $95, An Inviting Place, (303) 881-7016.BUYER BEWARE
Some of the largest and oldest wine auction houses in the business were served U.S. Department of Justice subpoenas in March 2007, under suspicion of having sold counterfeit wines. Thanks to expertly reproduced authentic labels and the lack of serial numbers or other identifying marks on older bottles or corks, it is estimated that counterfeit wines may occupy as much as five percent of the auction market. Cooperating with the federal authorities' investigation, the venerable old auction house Christie's issues this statement, "Christie's will not sell any lot that we know or have reason to believe is inauthentic of counterfeit. We take all appropriate steps to establish authenticity, and work with head experts, authorities and institutions in the relevant field to research the property that we sell."
Though counterfeit is nearly impossible to detect without tasting the wine (an obvious no-no before the sale), the good news is that unless you are purchasing an extremely distinct wine such as the $155,350 case of vintage case of 1945 Chateau Mouton Rothschild that recently sold at an auction conducted by "America's Oldest and Finest Wine Shop" you probably will not run into a counterfeit. Just as the serious counterfeiter does not spend the time and effort to reproduce an antique chair or cabinet of minimal value, mid-priced wines are fairly safe from the criminal element.
For reputable sources look to Acker, Merral & Cundit, established in 1820, which boasts the sale of over $50 million worth of the world's finest wines since entering the wine auction market in 1998. They, along with others, such as Chicago's Hart Davis Hart Wine Company, hdhwine.com, and the world famous, wildly successful Napa Valley Vintner's charity wine auctions, napavintners.com, are at the forefront of this explosive trend.