March 2, 2023

State of the Wine Collector w/ Charlie Fu, Los Angeles

State of the Wine Collector w/ Charlie Fu, Los Angeles

With a lot of economic uncertainty in early 2023, the fine and luxury wine space has remained relatively robust. Charlie Fu, an LA-based lawyer, wine collector, Wine Berserkers moderator, and caviar purveyor, gives us his thoughts on the state of the wine-collecting market. From Dry January, how they find new wines, navigating price increases, and Berserker Day, Charlie provides a good overview of wine collecting from his group's point of view. 

Detailed Show Notes: 

Charlie's background - LA-based collector, lawyer, caviar purveyor, and on Instagram

  • He has a few thousand bottles of wine in his collection

Wine collecting group

  • ~5-6 people meet for dinners in downtown LA
  • Total group ~20-25 collectors
  • Mostly early 30s-mid-40s, mostly male
  • Focused on Burgundy, Rhone, & Champagne

Dry January has become more common

Finding new wines

  • Recommendations from people in the industry, friends (including from IG), other collectors
  • Someone they know personally and trust
  • More guarded response when it's retailers recommending

Wine pricing

  • Seeing secondary marketing pricing dip at the top end
  • Retail release pricing keeps going up
  • Secondary premium key to keeping collectors buying a "relatively good deal"
  • He believes incremental price changes are less shocking than large shifts
  • People want to know why the price is escalating; communications are critical to significant price changes
  • There are thresholds when people stop buying - relative value, secondary pricing, and personal decisions on value

"Everyone's always looking for alternatives to Burgundy"

  • e.g., Willamette Valley Pinot and Chard are seen as "Burgundian"
  • e.g., Walter Scott as a white Burgundy substitute

Where people buy wine

  • Retailers w/ an existing relationship where they offer reasonable pricing
  • Brokers & auctions for the secondary market
  • Domestic wineries mainly bought direct, "as long as it makes sense"
  • gets a reasonable allocation of high-end wine, but not flash sale or other sale sites

Mailing list/allocation systems

  • People don't like forced purchase quarterly - e.g., the wine club model
  • They prefer the optionality of offering systems
  • Too much choice in an offer gets challenging - w/ no US vineyard hierarchy (vs. Burgundy), it's hard to distinguish between the wines

Collecting groups has not shown interest in wine investment

Wine Berserkers

  • Site upgrade in Aug 2022 took some time to get used to
  • Berserker Day - 2023 was the biggest ever
  • Now two days, Preview day for "Grand Cru" subscribers
  • Tips for wineries: 
  • Be active before Berserkers Day (e.g., Goodfellow Winery from Willamette Valley was very active and did well on Berserker Day)
  • 150+ listings need to have a good offer and stand out with a good description and potentially catchy one

Collecting trends

  • Natural wines have had their phase
  • More small production wineries, often connected to more famous ones, e.g., sons/daughters of prominent winemaking families
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