The fine wine business is booming in general, but mostly for wines bought en primeur, that are far from ready to drink, not only in traditional markets, but especially in the dynamic markets of the far east. But even in this country, where prices are wickedly high, people with cash are investing in this form of vinous speculation.
But storing these gems, for those not having adequate cellar facilities, can be a big problem, one that has come to light in the wake of the failure of two wine merchants offering cellaring in the UK. In April 2006 Mayfair Callars collapsed due to a scandal involving internal fraud. According to police the firm's ex-finance director was selling his clients' stock on to other merchants, who in all probability were totally unaware of the provenance of what they were buying.
Then in September, Uvine - universal wine exchange - went into liquidation with Ł2 million debts, again the enquiries are of selling on customers' wine without permission, a practice that must seem amazing to outsiders. In fact it seems the whole way of doing business is in this area is very old-fashioned belonging to the age of gentlemens's clubs with no proper set of checks in place. In this case the investigations are going very slowly; the longer they go on the less likely either wine or much money will be traced to the wines owners, the last to benefit from any recovered moneys of course.
Meanwhile 600 000 Euros of top wines includling Bordeaux first growths, mostly 2004 vintage bought en primeur, was stolen from the warehouse of Seigneuret Freres in France. 230 of the 270 cases have actually been recovered so far and all indications are the the work is that of an insider.
Source: Decanter, June 2007