Laying down wines for Godchildren

In 2009 Johnny Ray interviewed Private Cellar’s Amanda Skinner for a piece that he wrote on laying down wine for godchildren in The Telegraph and, in early 2014, he wrote an article for The Field on the same subject. The two articles feature at the top of Google rankings and this has resulted in hundreds of enquiries over the years and an even higher number of cases of fine wine being purchased for lucky godchildren as well as children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews. These cases are now lying in the perfect temperature and humidity conditions provided by Private Cellar’s specialist wine storage Bond, Vinothèque and will slowly mature before they are handed over to their fortunate owners on their 18th or 21st birthdays in the years and decades to come.
 
In the old days it was quite common for godfathers to buy a “pipe” of Port for their godsons. The thought of that makes us feel quite liverish – 60 cases or 720 bottles of Port! – but lifestyles were very different then, as was the outlay for the godparent!  
 
Modern godparents tend to lay down a case of Bordeaux for the Christening and then top up the collection each birthday and Christmas. Initially, the cost per case is relatively high as you need to buy a wine which is of high enough quality and from a great vintage to last for a minimum of 18 years. As the years go by and the 18th or 21st birthday approaches, godparents will know if their godchild is going to be more interested in selling their stash or drinking it (hopefully with said godparent!) and, armed with that knowledge, we can advise accordingly. Godparents of “drinkers” who have become really interested in wine can branch out and add cases of red burgundy or wines from Piedmont or the Rhône which have a tighter drinking window but will often be less expensive and end up creating an interesting selection of wines for their godchild to drink over a period of years. We don’t have a specific “product” for our godparents – our approach is much more bespoke and tailored to your budget and your intended wishes for your godchild.
 
Those who want to keep the collection geared towards selling it eventually will stick to highly rated Bordeaux from the top vintages, Super Tuscans or iconic wines from Napa Valley or Vintage Port. It is not uncommon for godchildren to come to us when they are in their twenties and ask us to sell a case of their fine wine and then use the proceeds to buy a larger number of cases of good but not grand wine which they can enjoy with their friends, which eliminates the sadness of watching hundreds of pounds worth of their precious wine going down less than discriminating throats.
 
We do still lay down Port for godchildren and the recent release of the very great 2016 vintage (the Port Houses unanimously “declared” a vintage, which only happens in spectacularly good years) resulted in a flurry of orders for children born in that year and being Christened in 2018. Port does appreciate in value but it’s a drink which is less in demand than top Red Bordeaux. On the other hand, it has the advantage of taking longer to mature so whilst its appreciation is much slower in comparison to Bordeaux, it is the perfect gift for a godchild who might eventually drink the wine as there is no concern that it will “go over” before they come of age.  

If a wine collection sounds like the sort of present that you would like to give to your godchildren or a new-born in your family, then do get in touch. Here are some ofthe most frequently asked questions but if you would like to know more, please don’t hesitate to e-mail amanda@privatecellar.co.uk or call 01353 721 608.

Answers to some of the usual FAQs about laying down wine for Godchildren

Can I lay down single bottles for my godchild?

The simple answer is no, if you are planning to build a collection for your very young godchild of wines which will potentially go up in value. We would always recommend that you buy a case (which can be 6 or 12 bottles) of wine in its OWC (original wooden case) and that it remains In Bond so that its provenance can be assured to the next owner, if the wine is to be sold. However, if your godchild is closer to their 18th or 21st birthday as opposed to being very young when you start to buy wine for them, you might like to buy some larger bottles: magnums, double magnums or even imperials (the equivalent of 8 bottles).

However, we do have a service which works well for busy godparents who don’t want to have to slog around a toy shop or give an iTunes or Amazon voucher for birthdays and who have an annual “budget” in mind, in that they invest in a case for their godchild and then “hand over” a bottle or two each year.  In this scheme, you would buy a case of 12 bottles in its OWC up front and decide how many bottles you will give your godchild each birthday and / or Christmas and we then write to them on subsequent birthdays or at Christmas to say that you have “added” a bottle to their reserve. If, for example, you gave one bottle for their birthday and one bottle for Christmas, we would then prompt you after six years to buy another case and so it continues.  
 
Do we have to store the wine with you at your Bond?

You do not have to but we strongly recommend that if you intend to build up a collection of wine which your godchild might sell, you leave the wine In Bond, stored under perfect conditions which act as a guarantee of provenance and storage during the wine’s lifetime for its next owner and allows it to be sold internationally. If Duty and VAT are paid this tax cannot be recovered; i.e. the value of the wine In Bond will be the same as the value of the wine Duty Paid when it comes to sell it.
 
Will my godchild end up with a valuable asset?

Godchildren who are now 18 or 21, whose godparents had the foresight to start their collections from the late 1990s / early 2000s – and who were well advised by their merchant – are potentially sitting pretty with a nice selection of 1996, 2000 and 2005 vintage Bordeaux. In 1997, a 1996 Château Léoville Lascases, for example, would have cost around £700 per case of 12. Today, the lucky recipient could sell it for £2,400. Not a bad nest egg to put towards gap year travels or a new car. However, en primeur prices in the top vintages have increased a great deal since the 1990s and the rate of appreciation for recent vintages has been slow or non-existent. As with all commodities, values can go up as well as down and no guarantees can be given about returns.  
 
What are you currently recommending?

2016 was universally declared as a vintage year by all the Port Houses, in April 2018. The quality is superb and the wines will enjoy a long life. We had a very successful campaign and we haven’t got much left but at the time of writing, we do have Croft 2016 available at £230 per case (6 x 75cl) In Bond. 2017 Bordeaux offers good scope for Godparents and our recommendations would start at £329 per case (6 x 75cl) for Château Grand Puy Lacoste, who have made a magnificent wine in 2017. We also recommend Château Léoville Barton 2017 at £330 per case (6 x 75cl) In Bond very highly and if your budget stretches a little further, Château Le Tertre Roteboeuf 2017 at £750 per case (6 x 75cl) would make a wonderful present.
 
How much is storage and insurance?

Our current rate is £11.20* plus VAT per case of 12 bottles (half for a case of 6 bottles or individual large format bottles). That covers rent and insurance at replacement market value plus 25% to allow for appreciation during the year.
 
What does “In Bond” mean?

It effectively means “before tax” in that you are paying for a wine which is shipped to the UK (or where the shipping cost is included in the price if the wine is still lying overseas) but where UK Duty (currently £25.98 + VAT per 9 litres*) and UK VAT (currently 20%*) have not been paid on the wine. A wine can remain In Bond in a UK Bonded warehouse and wines can be traded and exported In Bond. If a wine is removed from Bond and delivered, Duty and VAT become payable at current market rates prior to delivery being made. The VAT is calculated on the original cost price, not the current market value.
 
How do you decide when a vintage is of “investment” potential?

In the case of Bordeaux, the new vintage is released for tasting and assessment during the spring following the harvest. At that point we merchants and all the global wine critics descend on Bordeaux and make our judgments. Private Cellar’s buying is led by Master of Wine Nicola Arcedeckne-Butler who has been assessing young Bordeaux wine for nearly thirty vintages. Prices are released between April and July and we recommend purchase, or not, depending on our findings at the tasting and the price at which the châteaux release their wine. The wine critics rate the wines and publish their views. The wine critic Robert Parker started a wine journal in the 1980s called The Wine Advocate. He became a very powerful player in the world of fine wine and his scores could make or break a wine’s “performance” on the secondary market. He has now retired from rating Bordeaux and this has opened the field to more critics which gives a more balanced view of a wine’s quality. We will also look at the ratings given by the critics who are most respected to inform our advice.

What is the minimum spend?

If you are looking at buying Bordeaux for a young godchild, it needs to be of the quality to last for a minimum of twenty years and you are looking at a minimum spend of around £400. If you have a smaller budget, you could buy a 6 x 75cl case (not always available for all Bordeaux unless bought en primeur) or you could buy a 6 x 75cl case of Port or a trio of bottles of Port from a good vintage.
 
My god-daughter is in her early teens, what do you recommend so that she has a selection of delicious wines to drink when she is 21?

You have more flexibility with a requirement for a ten year drinking window and an opportunity to create a selection of wines of different styles and from different countries. Currently, we would recommend 2017 Bordeaux and 2016 Red Burgundy. Sauternes and Barsac have very long drinking windows and do not increase in value at the same rate as their red cousins so you could buy from a cracking vintage such as 2014 at close to the opening price. 2016 Rhônes from Châteauneuf are amongst the most exciting wines we have tasted we are great fans of the Super Tuscans, Sassicaia and Ornellaia and their excellent second wines. Closer to her 21st we would suggest that you add some White Burgundy to her collection and some Champagne.
 
Can my godchild view their wine?

Yes, by appointment. It would not be appropriate to have a minor in a Bond where wine is stored but when they are 18 or over it is easy to arrange, with notice. We store their wine in their name in our Private Cellar Reserves LLP account, totally separate from our trading stock and each case has a unique rotation number attached to it. This number is logged on our computer system and also the Bond’s system, alongside their customer reference to identify unambiguous ownership. To view the wine we would arrange an appointment and give the Bond a list of your godchild’s wines and their rotation numbers and one of the Vinothèque team would accompany them to view each of the cases. We store and manage over 15,000 cases of wine on behalf of our clients and it’s quite an impressive sight.

Can I build up a collection financed by monthly payments?

A lot of godparents, parents and grandparents like to set up a monthly standing order and ask us to invest the credit when suitable wines and vintages come along. It’s a very painless way to finance the creation of a collection. We will provide you with our Bank details and keep an eye on your credit and add to the collection as opportunities arise.
 
* Prices are correct at the time of going to press. For current rates, please visit our wine storage page.

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