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The Banker

I have one client who demands his own category. He bought a bunch of wine with some other guys several years ago and they got some great things . . . in huge quantities. Twenty and Thirty cases each of Mouton and Margaux. They bought en primeur, paying around sixty dollars a bottle. Now it’s almost twenty years later and these wines have appreciated six-fold. The guy still has twenty-five cases, but these few titles represent a quarter of his collection. I suggested that he should sell some off, but The Banker explained to me that he deals in “relative values,” and that these wines are now so valuable he can’t afford to sell them. The way he figures it, the seller’s commission would wipe out almost twenty percent of his ROI (return on investment), and he asked, “What am I going to get that’s better for the price?”
“Diversity,” I said.

The Banker is a guy who sees only dollar signs on wine labels. The wine is now so valuable that he can no longer enjoy it, won’t open it and can’t sell it. The only way he can get his full measure is to donate it to charity for the full current retail value, in exchange for a tax deduction.

I bring up the Banker because I believe that if you look at enough cellars, you can start to make certain assumptions about a person based on their wine collection. This guy’s cellar had four thousand bottles valued at around a million dollars, but I didn’t like it. I didn’t like his approach to collecting, and I especially didn’t like the way he was hoarding this stuff.

He also had what he called the “kids’ cellar,” a small area under the stairs, that we stocked with “everyday” wines—garden-variety stuff around twenty-five to thirty-five dollars per bottle. He was concerned that the wine we were allocating to the kids was too good. Talk about “relative value!”