Once, in a land that now seems very far away indeed, wine merchants had a dictum – buy five cases of five different Bordeaux wine first-growths when your child is born and by the time they marry, you’ll be able to pay for the wedding with the profits. It was the closest thing to a psalm that they had.
Today, though, with new buyers from China driving prices up, unless you have a spare £15,000 down the back of the sofa, your chances of owning a case of any wine with names such as Mouton Rothschild, Latour or Haut Brion and Margaux are so slim that they could be on a catwalk. It’s a shame because there is something nice about the idea of going out to immediately buy wine on the birth of your child.
There is an alternative to the big-bucks option, though. IG Wines is now offering a scheme whereby if you have a minimum of £250 to spare, they will invest it for you in the highest yielding wines it can find, be they from Italy, the US, or the lesser French regions, such as Burgundy or the Rhone Valley. IG, founded in 2011 by wine experts Paul Hammond and Jonathan Hirsch, is fairly well-placed to do it, too, being both a wine merchant and also an investment advisory outfit.
You might be thinking, why bother? Well, there are a few reasons. The first is cold and hard: over the last 20 years, the index of leading wines (Liv-ex 100 Index) has had a rate of return approaching 8 per cent a year. It goes without saying, that can all change – you could buy a booby and get nowhere. There is another reason, though, a better reason: it’s a really, really cool thing to do. You go out, you buy the wine, lay it down and let it mature, gracefully – a symbolic mirroring of the favoured child; each bottle a bet on the future. You might say that it is the commodification of food and drink, and you would be right. But the recipients of the vinous largesse have a choice. Yes, they can flog it and keep the money, or they can enjoy it, as the vintner would want it. You don’t get that with a gilt.
I must admit, I am smitten with the idea. Doubly so given that cellar-less flat-dwellers like me could even do it. If you “buy in bond” from any wine merchant in the UK, not only do you not have to pay VAT and duty until you sell it, but you can also store it in a government bonded warehouse where for around £10 per year it is looked after and insured. I’ll drink to that.