By: Aaron Patrick

While studying for the Somm exam, Chai Consulting’s Cellar Manager is often asked what his favorite wine is. His response? That’s like asking a mother with a 100 kids which is her favorite! I mean she has it narrowed down to her top ten on any given day, but she can’t pick her favorite. There are wines/regions I can drink all the time. Overall, when I do drink wine I’m looking for great values.

Champagne is my Achilles heel; I could drink it daily. I believe you can find more value than ever when buying champagne right now. When it comes to Champagne, I don’t discriminate. I will buy wine from négociant producers- who are buying grapes and juice from the over 15,000 grower producers- to some of the same grower producers who used to sell their grapes and now make their own wine.

I also love the crisp, refreshing and sometimes nutty wines of Chablis. Chablis offers amazing value at any level, whether you are buying village level bottlings to Premier or even up to Grand Cru. Two vintages I am enamored with because of their amazing acidity are 2012 and the recent 2014 vintages.

One underrated wine that can be amazing and extremely complex is Chianti! The Sangiovese grape can be undervalued and even passed off as peasant wine, but at it’s peak, and from great producers, it over delivers. I love it’s ability to pair well with food as well!

By: Siobhan Turner

As the former Executive Director of the Institute of Masters of Wine, what was the relevance of wine authentication to the organization?

Wow!  This is a difficult question to answer, and it must be done from a number of different perspectives.

The first, and easiest, way to tackle this question is to ask if it is part of the MW syllabus.  The answer is yes, although not explicitly.  One of the things I particularly like about the MW exam is that its syllabus has a flexibility to it that requires MW candidates to be aware of virtually everything that is going on in the world of wine, which obviously includes counterfeits.  I think it is safe to say that counterfeit wines are unlikely to be on the Practical exam (not least because it would be both impractical, illegal and and unethical to buy them, not to mention the legal implications of knowingly putting students at risk by making them ingest them).

However, wine authenticity is something of huge relevance to the theory portion of the exam, both directly, such as this question from 2014: “To what extent is fake wine a problem in today’s wine market?” and as a critical element of other questions addressing branding, distribution strategy, secondary markets, labels and a wide variety of other topics.  In addition, the third part of the exam, the Dissertation (now Research Paper) is a prime area of focus should someone wish to delve into the topic, as Rhys Pender MW did for his dissertation.

Beyond the study element, is wine authentication relevant to the Institute of Masters of Wine?

There are individual MWs for whom I have an enormous amount of respect in the Institute who take the matter very seriously indeed.  Serena Sutcliffe MW, former head of Sotheby’s wine department, is head and shoulders at the top of this list, but I would be remiss not to mention David Molyneux-Berry MW, Clive Coates MW, and David Peppercorn MW as included in this group.  Sheri Morano MW actively works in wine authentication for Chai Consulting.  Rhys Pender MW wrote his dissertation on the topic, with specific relevance to top Californian producers, and for producers like Fiona Morrison MW (Le Pin, L’If) it is a matter of utmost importance.

There are others, however, for whom counterfeit wine is viewed as much less of an issue than, in my opinion, it should be, and as a result, it is not something on which the Institute as a whole has been seen to take a firm position.  I think this is a missed opportunity, and one that would be welcomed by the vast majority of its members and by its supporters.  It will be interesting to see if this develops as awareness of the breadth and depth of the issue increases.

Thanks to collectors, professional wine storage is big business.  Within the wine collecting industry, statistics show that for every twenty bottles purchased by collectors, only one bottle is drunk immediately. The rest are stored away for months, years, if not decades, dependent upon the vintage, varietal and other factors.

As investment-grade wine emerged as a viable alternative asset to the equity markets over the last decade and-a-half, an opportunity for wine storage businesses simultaneously arose to meet the collector demand, and wine storage facilities began popping up all over the nation.

All facilities however, are not created equal.

Some facilities are more full-service in nature, and often provide a host of different services including: inbound inventorying, outbound pulls and pack, as well as uploading your wine into some sort of web-based online account where you can view your collection virtually.  Sounds great, right?  All those services can come with quite a hefty price, and those are on top of the monthly storage fee which can be as much as 40 cents per bottle.  For a $50 bottle that’s laid down for just three years you’ll pay $14 in storage fees, or 28% ‘overhead’ on that bottle!

Most facilities however are self-service oriented, leaving the heavy-lifting (literally) to the collector.  But as expected you will pay a lot less, normally only a charge for the locker that you are renting for your wine collection.  On a per bottle basis charges can be as low as 10 cents per bottle, but normally range between 14-18 cents per bottle.

So what is a collector to do if they’d like full-service treatment, but don’t necessarily want to pay the over-bloated storage bill of those facilities each month?  Why pay a more expensive storage bill for full services on a continual basis when you only need and utilize those services every so often?  As a ‘full service option’, Chai Consulting bundles our suite of collection management services with self-service storage facilities for a considerable savings when compared to the traditional full-service facility. In essence this lets collectors custom build their own full service wine team where they calls the shots and get the same full service, but only pay for it as needed.

An additional tip?  Some self-storage facilities are now taking certain important full-service aspects and differentiating themselves from other self-service facilities by providing services that can include receiving shipments on the collector’s behalf and placement into your locker.  Most, in fact will provide this service at no extra charge.  These will be the facilities that can provide the best value for the collector.  But as we have learned – it is best to check those inventories every so often to ensure your wines have been put away properly .

Collectors should do their homework when choosing a facility, (or let us do it for you since we have worked with many of the storage facilities across the country), to ensure the home you choose for your valued investment addresses all your needs from a service perspective and at a price you are comfortable dedicating to wine storage each month.

Kirk Baierlain Account Advisor, Chai Consulting

For additional insights, to inquire about our services,  or for further advice on how to figure out which  wine storage facility is right for you and for a list of reputable wine storage facility across the U.S. feel free to contact me directly at .