Fine wines are now firmly part of what is known as the ‘passion investment’ class – which means assets that could appreciate in value while providing great pleasure to their owners.


Wine is offered as mixed lots at auction. Here six bottles of vintage red wine, two 1976 Gevrey Chambertin, two Chateauneuf du Pape 1969 and two 1978 Aloxe Corton 1978, all Berry Brothers and Rudd were offered as a single lot at Mitchells of Cockermouth, Cumbria in September 2019. The lot sold for £110.

But whether buying with an eye to a future profit or purchasing wine for a big occasion, auctions have become an increasingly good place to shop. 

Why buy wine at auction?

There are two reasons for buying wine at auction. Firstly, the breadth of fine and rare wines on offer typically exceeds the stock available at the local high street retailer or supermarket. Secondly, as a general rule, the prices are lower.

Wine at auction is typically bought and sold by the case – it is common in auction catalogues to see the abbreviation ‘OWC’, meaning the bottles come stored in their ‘original wooden case’. But many auction houses will also sell good vintages by the bottle or in mixed lots.


Four magnums of champagne that sold as a single lot alongside a bottle of Lanson Black Label for £480 at Tennants of Leyburn, North Yorkshire in July 2019. The lot included a magnum of Tattinger 1990 Vintage Champagne and two magnums of Tattinger Comtes de Champagne 1990.

The market has broadened in recent times to include wines from much further afield than a mere select few French chateaux. 

What to know

Whatever your budget, you will want to know that the wine has been stored correctly. Bottles ‘laid down’ in controlled storage are more preferable to those housed in ‘passive’ cellars.

Ullage levels – the air spaces in a wine bottle – are also commonly referenced in catalogues. Although older wines will naturally evaporate very slowly through a permeable cork and this is not a concern, a notably large airspace between wine and cork could suggest that air has seeped into the bottle and affected the quality.

Vintage wine

An iconic wine and vintage, this bottle of Hermitage ‘La Chapelle’ Paul Jaboulet Aine 1961 with 5cm ullage, a level consistent with its age, sold for £1500 at Elstob & Elstob in Bedale, North Yorkshire in June 2019.

Once the preserve of dealers and restauranteurs, the necessary information to buy wine at auction is far more accessible than it was in the past. There are all sorts of statistics and indices to draw on and the auction room is a great place to learn about the merchandise with specialists on hand to offer advice on what you could buy based on your needs and budget.

Enjoying your hobby

And just in case your appetite is not sated by the many drinkable lots on offer, you could also reach for the ‘tools of the trade’ that are of particular appeal to wine lovers (or oenophiles as they are sometimes known).

Cocktail shakers, antique claret jugs, corkscrews, coasters, wine tasters, funnels, posters and labels can be found at good prices in many auctions of antiques and collectables.

They are fun to find and buy and make an interesting talking point alongside that special bottle.

What to do next

Decide how much you’d like to spend and use the search facility on to find wine coming up for sale. You can filter your search by, among other things, price and by location of the auction house to narrow down your selection.

To research recent prices at auction so you can see how much different vintages of wine sold for you can also try out the Price Guide.

If you are new to bidding check out our guides to buying at auction – it’s easy once you know how.

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