Wine Auctions in Ontario

Stephen Ranger

Most wine buyers in Ontario are happy to buy their treasures at the LCBO or through the myriad of agents offering specialty and limited supply cult wines. For those of us with a thirst for rare and spectacular older wines, Ontario has now an increasing number of charitable auctions as well as the annual Vintages auction held each fall in Toronto.

These sales offer an incredible opportunity to buy well stored older vintages often at prices significantly below retail and without having to bring purchases across the border and pay exorbitant duties.

Over the past several years the fine wine auction market has soared to new heights, despite the global recession, as bidders from Asia have been snapping up Chateau Lafite Rothschild, DRC and other blue chip wines at astonishing prices. This doesn’t mean however there are not great buying opportunities in the rest of the wine world.

How these wines come available is as diverse as the offerings themselves. Many consignors to the Vintages auction are collectors who have amassed more than they can possibly drink in their lifetime. In some instances, a collector will look at their cellar and realize that the value of the wine in their collection has appreciated significantly and they are not comfortable uncorking that Chateau Mouton Rothschild they bought  back in 1990 and is now worth over $1000. In a few cases, it’s doctors’ orders, time to downsize, or for others time to reap a return on a long term investment.

For donors to charitable auctions, the chance to donate to a good cause and to get a valuable charitable tax receipt is what is driving their gift.

Buying wine at auction is not without it’s complications. At commercial auctions, expect to pay a buyer’s premium ( a commission that goes to the auction house), as well as HST. Depending on the premium charged, usually between 15 and 20 per cent, this will add roughly 30 per cent to the hammer price of each lot. The majority of charitable sales do not charge premiums or taxes.

This column will take a look at the highlights of what is coming available at the most significant charitable and commercial wine auctions each month. As the majority of the major sales take place in the spring and fall, I will try to give you an advance look at some great wines that may be hard to get or great bargains.

Appraiser’s Biography

Stephen Ranger has over 20 years experience in the art world as an auctioneer, appraiser and consultant. Stephen pioneered the sale of Fine Wine at auction in Canada and has been involved in some of the highest grossing sales of art and wine at auction in the last ten years through his association with Ritchies, Sotheby’s and the LCBO. Stephen is a specialist in the fields of Canadian art,  textiles and furniture and has been a regular lecturer at the Royal Ontario Museum and at Sotheby’s Institute in London. In addition, Stephen is deeply committed to serving his community and contributes his services and expertise to over twenty events each year. His consultancy practice focuses on valuation and advice for institutional and private clients. Stephen currently serves as Vice President, Business Development for Waddington’s, Canada’s leading auctioneers