Contrary to popular opinion wine auctions are not just for the well-to-do. If you do some homework ahead of time and keep a level head at the auction, there are some great bargains out there to help you start (or fill out) your wine collection. We have provided some tips that should help you to keep your shirt and walk out with a great deal on a bottle, or even a case or two.
# Order the catalog or, if possible, download it from the auction website for free.
# Pick a focus. Decide what type of wine you want to bid on be it White Burgundy, Red Bordeaux, California Cabernet, etc. It will keep you from getting overwhelmed.
# Look for mixed lots. Investor’s typically skip these items and the savvy bidder can pick up an interesting odd lot of great bottles.
# Go early and stay late. Auctions are typically set up around lunches and most of the heavy bidding gets done during the middle of the day.
# Check retail prices ahead of time. Sites such as http://winesearcher.com provide retail prices on most bottles you will find at auction. You would be surprised how many people buy wine at auction that they could have purchased cheaper from their neighborhood retailer.
# Take into account the buyer’s premium, taxes and shipping before you decide that something is a good deal. All of these things can add over 20% to the hammer price so be wary.
# Set a limit for bidding. On any given lot you should know that when the bidding gets to a certain level, you will put down your paddle and admit defeat.
Keep in mind that auctions are fun and joining in on the action can be adrenaline-inducing. Some auction houses even include perks such as pre-sale tastings (for a reasonable charge), complimentary Champagne, free tasting bottles at the auction event or lunch for attendees (one plate per paddle please!). Click on this link http://www.wine-searcher.com/merchants/x,auction for a list of auction houses and their urls. For more specific information, visit the Collector’s Corner column at http://bonvivantwineguide.com .