How to Invest in Wine

There are many people who enjoy a glass of wine – and some who go to great lengths to collect a fine, vintage bottle.

There's a growing trend around wine that goes beyond simply collecting for personal use. For some, an interest in fine wine may lead them to consider it as a potential way to diversify their investment portfolio.

The industry-leading benchmark is the London International Vintners Exchange. This includes the Liv-ex Fine Wine 100 Index that tracks the top 100 most sought-after wines. The index generated a five-year return of more than 22 percent through the end of 2018.

But that kind of return doesn't mean you should go out and completely fill your portfolio with wine or other such investments, said Liz Jacovino, wealth strategist at RBC Wealth Management-U.S.

"Wine, like other passion investments, should only represent a small part of your overall portfolio, and needs to fit within the context of your overall asset mix," she said.


Different approaches to wine investing

While many fans and collectors of wine may think buying premium bottles of wine is the only way to invest in the product, there are actually several different methods to tap this market:

  • Wine futures: Wine that is still aging in the barrel and sold as-is. You invest upfront, but the wine is typically not bottled for at least two years and is not shipped from the winery for three years after harvest. “This is a speculative purchase where you're trying to predict the quality in advance based on a variety of factors, including your knowledge of the vintner and the weather," said Jacovino.
  • Pre-arrivals: Wine that is bottled but not yet officially released on the market. These are young bottles, so the price you pay may be lower than the retail price tag. The quality may also be more evident than with wine futures, and the turnaround time for making potential profits may be faster.
  • Market wine: Wine purchased on the open market. In this case, you may have a clear sense of the volume of production for a given vintage and a better idea of the quality. Certain wines are in high demand and sell out quickly when they come to market, so there’s a secondary market — as with stocks, bonds and other securities.
  • Invest directly in a vineyard: Partner with an established vineyard or start your own to make a long-term investment in wine – this requires a great deal of expertise and operational know-how.


How To Choose the Right Wine

France — specifically the Bordeaux and Burgundy regions — produces the majority of high-demand wine for investment purposes.

In fact, up to 80 percent of all investment-grade wine comes from France. A smaller amount of investable wine comes from Italy and California.

Many investors hire professional wine managers to help recommend and facilitate their purchases. Wine is an ever-changing marketplace, so it requires a great deal of specialized knowledge to separate the best investment opportunities from the rest of the market.

“Ultimately, the person advising you will also likely be the one who will take the wine you own to market for you," said Jacovino.


How To Assess the Risks of Investing in Wine

As with any investment, it's crucial to understand the risks of investing in wine:

  • Market unpredictability: Market demand for specific wines can ebb and flow. Choosing wines as an investment involves a degree of speculation about future demand for any vintage in which you invest.
  • Storage: To help maintain your investment, wine needs to be properly stored by you or by a professional wine storage facility. “If you store wine on your own, look into adding a rider on your property insurance to protect it," said Angie O'Leary, head of wealth planning at RBC Wealth Management-U.S.
  • Fees: You'll likely have to hire a wine manager to help you purchase, store and sell your wine. This can include fees in the range of 15 to 20 percent.
  • Fraud: Some wines have been sold that are not actually the vintage represented on the label. Particularly in the secondary market for wine, there have been documented cases of fraud.
  • Extended time horizon: High-demand wines typically increase in value over time, so investors may need to be patient and be in a position to set aside a sum of money that may not deliver a return for a significant time. "Expect a holding period of at least 10 years to benefit from potential price appreciation, though it's reasonable to plan on holding your investment for even longer," said Jacovino.


The Takeaway

Getting into the wine market with the goal of earning a return requires an understanding of the challenges and risks involved. This is why many wine investors seek the guidance of professional wine buyers.

While the potential market for wine may lead some investors to consider it a way to diversify their portfolios, working with someone experienced in the marketplace can allow your passion investment, just like a fine bottle of wine, to appreciate with age.

This article is a republication of content originally published by RBC Wealth Management, a division of RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Member NYSE/FINRA/SIPC. © 2018, Royal Bank of Canada, used with permission.

City National does not warrant that it is accurate or complete. Opinions expressed and estimates or projections given are those of the authors or persons quoted as of the date of the report with no obligation to update or notify of inaccuracy or change. This report may not be reproduced, distributed or further published by any person without the written consent of RBC Capital Markets, LLC. Please cite source when quoting.

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