wine auction

Auction lot idea: “The Wine Spectator Top 100”

Wine is consistently one of the top-selling categories of auction lots in fundraising auctions, and the vast majority of charity auctions we conduct feature at least one or two “wine lots.” People like their wine and are often more than willing to overpay for it in support of a good cause.

But not every committee is comprised of wine lovers with expansive wine cellars, and sometimes coming up with a good wine lot is a daunting challenge. Committee members often don’t have the wines and don’t know which wines they should purchase to donate.

We’ve worked with a number of committees to come up with ideas for lots that can be achieved without necessitating a deep and expensive cellar. Lots that can be assembled at minimal expense to your individual committee members, but for which the collective perceptual value is very high. One lot that is the easy to replicate and consistently yields solid results is “The Wine Spectator Top 100.”

Every year Wine Spectator releases its list of the top 100 wines of the year. It isn’t simply a list of the 100 highest scoring wines from the previous year; the editors of Wine Spectator base their list on “quality, value, availability and excitement.” All important criteria when assembling an auction lot!

Wine is perennially popular, especially wine with provenance. 

Wine is perennially popular, especially wine with provenance. 

What this means is the wines on the Wine Spectator Top 100 are readily available and relatively affordable. Thirteen of the top twenty wines on the list have a retail value of $50 or less. Only eight of the entire list cost $100 or more.

I recommend creating a lot of at least ten bottles. “Ten of the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines” has a nice ring to it and is an achievable goal for most committees. Avoid duplication by agreeing as a group which wines you’ll be targeting individually. This ensures people have a clear direction and clearly defines the goals of the lot.

Here’s a dirty little secret: although it is nice to target the top ten wines on the Wine Spectator list, you really don’t have to have all wines from the top of the list. Wines from anywhere in the top 100 will work – as long as a few of them sniff the rarified air of the top of the list.

From a bidder’s perspective, the fact that someone else has pre-assembled a group of highly qualified wines makes this lot appealing. If the retail value is relatively low it, great! That gives people the opportunity to earn a higher tax deduction if they pay over value. And the many times I’ve sold variations of this lot, the final sale price has outperformed retail value.

Have a favorite go-to wine lot for your fundraising auction? Let us know in the comments below!

Create your own traditions for your fundraising auction

2016 marks the 35th year that the Sun Valley Center for the Arts has held its annual wine auction. 2016 also marks the 22nd year that Atkinson’s Market has donated a collection of seven 3-liter bottles with an image of Sun Valley etched and painted across all seven bottles.

It is a big, impressive, beautiful lot. It is a definitive collector’s lot, and you see previous sets on display in major donor’s homes all over Sun Valley. And over the course of the past 22 years it has raised one million dollars.

The Atkinson's Market annual collection of etched and painted 3-liter bottles is one of many traditions at the Sun Valley Center for the Art Wine Auction.

The Atkinson's Market annual collection of etched and painted 3-liter bottles is one of many traditions at the Sun Valley Center for the Art Wine Auction.

Every year the image on the bottles changes, making each set unique. Discussions about the art on the bottles, who bought it last year, and who is interested in it this year are all part of the fabric of the weeklong event. Over the course of 22 years, the Atkinson’s Market lot has become as much a tradition as the Wine Auction itself.

I see lots of other examples of traditions like this: the dinner that takes place every year in the same supporter’s home, the trip to Italy to stay in one of the biggest donor’s vacation villa, the chilled magnum of champagne to open the auction. Whatever it is, traditions are a valuable part of any fundraising auction. Traditions provide a sense of continuity, and hopefully make things easier for your solicitation team by not requiring a major revamp of your auction every year.

Whatever your traditions are, acknowledge them, embrace them and make them a part of the fabric of your event. And if you don’t have any traditions yet, now is a great time to create your own.