Jason Yapp: in search of rarity


Like many of my ilk, I have always enjoyed collating collections of objects and my interest extends to comics, corkscrews, records, books, art and wine.

Especially wine. As a general rule, it is best if something is scarce but not unique. I am the fortunate owner of several bottles of wine that are the only known example of their kind, but strangely none of these has a significant monetary value.

Collectors want to collect, so have little interest in the unattainable. Ideally, you want things to be scarce, but there to be several recorded examples of them. Thus you are better off possessing a copy of the Sex Pistols’ 1977 God Save the Queen recording on the A&M label or the Rolex Daytona Lemon wristwatch with the 1970 Paul Newman 6264 dial, of which there are 11 known examples, than something that is a genuine one-off.

Wine is an interesting commodity as it is regarded by HMRC as a “wasting chattel”, so the official viewpoint is that it is something that loses value over time. This is emphatically not the case if someone is careful about what wine they elect to buy and, critically, store it properly, which means, at a time when few houses have proper cellars, professionally.

That, of course, comes with commensurate costs of roughly £1 per bottle per year, by my back-of-an-envelope calculation, but it’s probably worth it in terms of provable storage provenance. If you enjoy a career in the wine trade you may find, as I have, that wine storage is a tax-free fringe benefit, in which case you are fortunate.

At Yapp Brothers we subscribe to the excellent, professional version of the wine-searcher.com wine evaluation website, which is a rapid and pretty reliable method of divining the probable market value of any wine in your possession.

Most wine trade professionals prefer unopened cases of 12 bottles (or equivalent) with provenance from the source of origin onwards, rather than loose sales of individual bottles, but rarity does make for exceptions.

I am the proud owner of a single half-bottle of 1967 (my birth year) Château d’Yquem that I purchased several years ago from a wine broker, who had bought it at auction from the estate of the MP, diarist, connoisseur and bon viveur Alan Clark. I am saving that for my dotage as, according to the American critic Josh Reynolds, it is both “spellbinding” and “breathtaking” and should drink well for two decades yet.

I also have a bottle of Château Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the 2001 vintage, my youngest son’s birth year, that looks to be trading well into four figures a bottle. He’ll have to approach me when I’m in very good cheer if he wishes me to broach that.

Although it is gratifying when wines you buy inexpensively appreciate substantially in value over time, that is not the principal driver in creating a wine collection. The enjoyment is in the searching, finding, acquiring and editing wines that capture your interest. The other thing that is exceptional about wine is that if things don’t turn out as you had hoped, you can always drink it.

Jason Yapp is director of Yapp Bros in Mere, Wiltshire

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