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A resurgence of interest in wine collecting is afoot worldwide, and at New Zealand’s number-one auction house, Webb’s, they’ve seen a pronounced uptick in the under-40 demographic. Along with the older and supposedly wiser among us, emerging connoisseurs are breaking the mould, exploring new flavours and becoming active participants in the auction scene. How does one go about that, though? We asked Head of Fine Wines & Whiskies at Webb’s, Marcus Atkinson.
So Marcus, where does Webb’s get its wines and whiskies? Although Webb’s takes pride in its well-established network of sources, two-thirds of consignors in each auction are usually new to us. These vendors range from retirees with a couple of old bottles of whisky that have been gathering dust for 30 years, to regular buyers with entire cellars wanting to make space and release money for new wines as their tastes evolve.
We acquire our wines and whiskies from several sources, including private collectors, estates, collaborations with esteemed wine producers, and partnerships with reputable distributors. Our longevity and standing in the industry has allowed us to forge strong relationships and gain access to the most exclusive and sought-after bottles.
Why are auctions a good place for people to seek out bottles for cellaring? The allure lies in the sheer diversity and availability of wines and spirits that auctions offer. An additional benefit is that many wines will already be in their drinking window, so you can enjoy them now, while your more recent, often far-too-young bottles of wine have time to age in your cellar.
Auctions can also be incredibly rewarding in terms of value. Savvy collectors often find gems at competitive prices, making auctions an attractive avenue for obtaining those special bottles that can elevate a collection.
What’s the best way to prepare for one of Webb’s Fine Wines & Whiskies auctions? Auctions are much more accessible than even I was aware of before I joined Webb’s. If you can use Trade Me, you can easily navigate them, so I’m not sure too much preparation is necessary. That’s especially true of our online auctions, which run monthly, usually ending in the last week of the month. They run for at least six days, which gives you plenty of time to peruse the lots, which start from just $1, and to place your maximum bids.
Similarly, our live auctions have an online catalogue published a week ahead of the event, so you can dive into research on the bottles that pique your interest and establish a clear budget. Maximum ‘absentee bids’ can be placed in advance, or you can attend the [Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland or Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington] salerooms in person and bid live on the night; we always open some great wines to taste. The auctions run for two to three hours, and we also stream them live on our website, if you prefer to follow from the comfort of your own home.
Any tips for getting the most out of the process? Live auctions can be spirited affairs, so having a bidding strategy will ensure the most satisfying experience. The best advice I can give, though, is to place your maximum or absentee bids as high as you dare, and early. Remember they’ll only be reached if someone’s bidding against you. I always suggest a bid one higher than you think you want to go, so you don’t kick yourself later for bidding too weakly and missing out, or having to jump two or more increments later to secure the lot.
Collecting and cellaring demand proper storage conditions to preserve your treasures. Keep meticulous records of your collection and consider seeking guidance from us to help refine your choices. Embrace variety; don’t limit yourself to one style or region. Diversity in your collection can yield delightful surprises and broaden your appreciation of these fine libations.
What’s the most interesting wine or whisky sale you’ve been involved in? One that stands out was a remarkable bottle of Laphroaig whisky from the 1940s. The sheer historical significance and the compelling story behind this bottle made it an extraordinary and highly sought-after item, and in our auction, it sold for $44,000. It’d been given to the owner on her 21st birthday, having been purchased by her great-grandfather on his world tour in the 1950s. She said she was over the moon, as it allowed her to put a deposit on her first home. It’s moments like these that truly highlight the magic of the auction world.
To see what’s up for sale now, head to the Forthcoming Auctions page at