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Managing Wine Collections

Wine enthusiasts know the rewards of owning a collection: nurturing a bottle for years, anticipating its peak and, at last, savoring the fruit of the vine. Unfortunately, if not cared for properly, some bottles won’t make it that far. Fragile bottles can break. Basement cellars can flood. Refrigeration systems can malfunction. Just like any other hobby or activity you would undertake, it’s a good idea to engage professional advice to establish best practices for protecting your wine investment.

Following are five of the most commonly identified issues for wine collectors:

Mistake #1: Assuming your collection is protected under your homeowners policy

If a truck transporting wine you just purchased at auction is in an accident and some of the bottles are broken, would your current policy protect you? Most homeowners policies specifically exclude coverage for perishables and fragile goods, such as wine. Distinct collectibles insurance will offer the flexibility to cover newly acquired bottles, items in transit and more.

Mistake #2: Keeping an outdated wine collection inventory

Inaccurate inventories can leave your collection exposed to theft and undervaluation.

Mistake #3: Insufficient tech support

There are a number of ways to modernize your cellar or storage area, but most collectors neglect to get proactive. For example:

  • To quickly catch dramatic changes to the cellar conditions, connect the wine cellar to temperature and moisture alarms. You can even install water shut-off devices or other sensors that hook into the central home monitoring system.
  • When choosing your electrician, invest in a specialist. Improper wiring can lead to short circuits—causing drastic temperature changes inside the cellar.

Mistake #4: Not locking the wine cellar

If you were entertaining or having work done in your home, would you leave your fine jewelry out for everyone to access? The same attention to security should be extended to wine, but unfortunately people don’t often consider the ease with which bottles can be taken.

Mistake #5: Storing your collection with inappropriate materials

For collectors who don’t have a wine cellar in the home, carefully consider where your bottles reside. The garage or basement may not be the best choice. Fumes from gas, exhaust, paint and other chemicals can permeate the corks, causing spoilage.

Consult the Experts

Wine collecting may seem like a “set it and forget it” activity—once your wine cellar is set up, most bottles don’t move until served or sold. But there are still times when you need expertise to help you manage your collection. Ask yourself the following questions to see if you have potential weak spots in the management of your wine collection:

  • Do you have a plan for how to protect your collection if your home is in an area at risk for natural disasters like earthquakes, wildfires or hurricanes?
  • Do you have a plan and/or a designated transportation company if you need to move all or part of your collection?
  • Who is managing your wine inventory, appraisals and storage—and are they using procedures appropriate for investment-grade wine?

Another common problem area for wine collectors: State laws regarding wine and alcohol sales vary greatly, and in some cases are very restrictive. Many restrictions are obscure and not well understood by the typical consumer. You’ll want to check with a legal professional or other professional advisor to ensure that when you sell part of your collection or transport it that you’re doing so within the law. That’s especially true if the move or transaction crosses state lines or national borders.

Unless you’ve worked in the wine industry, chances are you don’t have the expertise necessary to address these questions on your own. Fortunately, some insurance carriers that provide private collections policies offer advice and guidance on these topics as part of their services. They can work with you to identify potential hazards and determine solutions that meet your unique needs.

Last updated Tuesday, December 4th, 2018

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