Insuring wine goes down the hatch, not up in smoke

Tue Apr 19, 2011 6:01am EDT
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By Leslie Gevirtz

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - There's a growing market for insuring fine wine as even people who had never thought to insure their liquid assets, or don't even have a cellar, discover they have a valuable commodity.

"There are people who have not thought of insuring and they have been collecting for years," Yannick Daucourt, fine art specialist for XL Insurance, said.

"They do it for the passion, because they like to drink the wine more than to sell it. Then, they suddenly realize that it has risen in value and they show more interest in insuring it."

Prices for wine have risen sharply. Last December a case of 12 bottles of 1982 Lafite with impeccable provenance could be bought at auction for $45,000. By mid-March the price for the Bordeaux was $60,000.

"As a collector you don't even have to have wine," Daucourt said from his office in Zurich. "You can invest in funds. And that's where we, as an insurer, have seen an increase."

Wine investment funds are based primarily in Britain, Europe and Asia, and buy fine wines -- mainly first-growth Bordeaux -- with the intention of selling, not drinking, them.

Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of wines are stored in warehouses at so-called Swiss free ports where taxes are not collected, Daucourt explained.

But there are no such funds in the United States, where most wine collectors find that their homeowner's policy provides some coverage for their bottles.   Continued...