Wine Auctioneers Find Surprising Virtual Success

Posted by Barterhouse on February 23, 2021

When you think of an auction, you probably think of a fast-talking auctioneer holding up items in front of a room full of people who are ready to raise their paddles and bid on some fantastic finds. In the case of wine auctions, these would be vintage and rare wines. But the pandemic has changed everything, including wine auctions. Because large groups of people are not allowed to gather, wine auction houses have taken to Zooms to peddle their wares, and customers can raise their paddles and bid on wines from the comfort of their own homes. The astounding fact, one year into the pandemic, is that the virtual wine auctions have been very successful, and there are a few important reasons for that. 

More Time at Home Equals More Interest and More Cash

One reason that wine auctioneers have found virtual success is because peoples’ lives have shifted more towards home in the long months of lockdown. And with more time at home, wine lovers have time to invest in learning the ropes of vintage wines. And in a silver lining, since wine connoisseurs are not spending as much money out at restaurants, bars, concerts, and the like, they have deeper pockets when the auctioneer begins. Time and money on the part of wine lovers are leading to a definite win for the wine industry.

Marc Smoler, senior vice president of client services at Hart Davis Hart, said, “With collectors spending more time on their collections and consuming more wine at home, it has impacted the demand at auction. In addition to increased participants, the amount of live bidding, versus absentee bidding, has increased significantly.”

For instance, the Del Posto Collection raked in $5.7 million, far surpassing the estimated total of between $3 and $4.5 million. This shows that the pandemic has not slowed people’s interest in wines or paddle raising, but rather has increased it.

New Strategies 

Just like a myriad of other activities and meet-ups over the past year, wine auction entrepreneurs have had to think outside the box to continue the auctions despite the pandemic. They have done so with ingenuity, grace, and ultimately success.

The auction houses have used Zoom lunches and virtual tasting rooms to build interest in the wines they are selling. Webinars are also helping wine connoisseurs learn more about the vintage bottles they can bid on. These tactics have helped in the short term, but also paid off for the long term of wine auctions, and even brought in new customers. 

“The digital transformation in the wine and spirits business has been accelerated by five to 10 years as innovation, automation, simplicity, and empowering clients is very clearly the future,” says Jamie Ritchie, worldwide head of Sotheby’s Wine.

A Bigger Audience 

One accidental positive of the pandemic and its impact on online wine auctions is that the pandemic has actually made it easier to garner a bigger audience for the auction. There are several reasons for this. In a traditional wine auction, you need to be in a specific city at a certain time, but online auctions offer participants the freedom to be anywhere in the world. In general, a Zoom auction takes less time because it cuts out travel time and other problematic parts of being somewhere at a certain time, such as weather or traffic.  

The online wine auction format has also brought in new people with time and money on their hands. 

“Wine lovers from over 27 countries, 34 percent of whom were first-time buyers, attended the online sale of the Benjamin Ichinose Collection in July.” Surprisingly, the online format has opened up the world to many new buyers in many new places. And the bottom line is that wine auctions have been more lucrative than expected. 

“We have a vibrant market with strong prices—and some records—during COVID,” Jamie Ritchie, worldwide head of Sotheby’s wine, said. “We have younger buyers coming into the market, with 60 percent of new buyers in their thirties or forties, and our traditional buyers embrace the digital tools.” 

What Are Your Options?

If you missed the big options this year, or just want to learn before you buy, Barterhouse is the place to start. We’re an importer, wholesaler, and auction house that specializes in personal attention. They also cater to different categories of wine lovers, with two tiers of bottles available. 

At Barterhouse, we never forget that, although wine can be a valuable investment commodity, it is always one of life’s greatest pleasures. That’s why we put just as much care into selecting a great $15 bottle as we would when choosing one for $15,000.”

Here are two fantastic choices:

  • Conte Guicciardini is an everyday Tuscan red that goes well with meat sauces and pizza, with a fresh taste and smooth tannins.
  • Donatien Bahuaud is aged in oak barrels. This intense red goes well with venison, soft cheeses, and lamb, and has won many awards.

You can also try a plethora of New York City restaurant wines by purchasing one of our fabulous Winelist NYC boxes, where you’ll receive 12 exquisite bottles for just $250. 

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the world of wine auctions has been able to pivot and find even more success than usual. By drawing in more participants from around the globe, and using online wine tastings and webinars to educate new clients, the business has gained years of technology, lockdown, and success since the pandemic began.

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