Wine Buyers Advice: WineBid Revisited

We interrupt the flood of backlogged reviews to bring you some actionable advice on getting some great deals on wine you're not likely to find at your local retailer.

A lot of you got a good laugh from last summer's cautionary tale 'Be Careful What You Wish For' at the end of which I said: "Here's what I'll do differently next time:

  • Bid only on wines I've had, know, and love. Everything else is speculation.
  • Bid only on wines that are either uncontested or whose bids are ridiculously low.
  • Factor the premium, insurance, and shipping overhead into every bid before hand."
Before revealing just how much of this sage advice I've taken to heart, it's worth mentioning that the wines from the last shipment that we've uncorked have all been in superb conditionProvenance, perhaps the greatest risk factor in sourcing wine this way, appears to be very good in most cases.  What a pleasant surprise.  Another pleasant surprise is the very low shipment costs (<$2/bottle!) we paid.

Well, curiosity got the better of me last month and, while I chucked the first guideline above, I stuck to the other two pretty well.  Some might call it bottom feeding, and I suppose that's what it is.  Whatever.  When you see what I paid for some of these wines you may call it smart.)  Thankfully, Winebid's interface provides an excellent search function where you can filter by appellation, varietal, ratings, etc.  But more importantly, you can filter by my three favorite criteria: Uncontested single bottle lots with low reserves. 

Now, you do need to know what you're shopping for.  The bottle of Frexinet of unknown age is not a bargain, even if you do score it for $5, for example.  But with literally thousands of wines at auction at any given time, chances are you'll find something you recognize as a good deal.  Clearly some of the buys above are larks.  Who knows what the Biale Sangiovese will be like, or if the 96 Santa Emma is vinegar, but there are also some solid wines here, all of them incredible deals at these prices.  Case in point: the Windward Pinots, which I've described as worth raiding the college fund for, normally retail for $48.  I paid $10 each for a 1998 and 2000.

Is buying wine at auction for everyone?  No.  But the discerning bottom feeder can definitely do a lot better on some selected bottles than at the local retailer.

Happy bidding!