Wine and Words with Sotheby’s Wine CEO

Did you know that Sotheby’s offers wine? Sotheby’s Wine is both a retail wine merchant and auctioneer, with a store in the lobby of Sotheby’s headquarters building in New York, at 72nd and York. In our recent brand newsletter, they featured the interview below with Jamie Ritchie, chief executive officer and president, Americas and Asia, Sotheby’s Wine.

What do you drink at home?

JR: I am very lucky to be able to enjoy many great wines through my work. At home though, my everyday budget is $15 to $40 – we have a great range of wines in our retail business that I want to try, so we always have a mixed case at home that will suit every mood and food.

Do you drink wine every day?

JR: Of course! When I was 18 I worked out that if I lived until I was 65 (not a great life expectancy, but it seemed very, very old then) and drank a bottle of wine every day, then I would drink 17,155 bottles.The reason I started learning about wine was the idea that I could either have 17,155 interesting and enjoyable bottles or I could have 17,155 indifferent bottles. It was inevitable that I was going to honor that calculation and if anything, I think I am running ahead of plan! At retail, we have more everyday drinking wines, plus a strong range of red and white Burgundy, Champagne and Italian wines that you don’t see so much at auction. Through our retail business, we also offer Bordeaux Futures (also called En Primeur), where we sell the latest vintage, when the wine is still in the barrels at the Chateaux – this appeals to many people, as they get perfect provenance and there is an interesting investment angle. We will also be starting a storage business this year, to help clients who buy too much wine from us!

What is your favorite wine region to visit and why?

JR: They are all like ice cream for children: they all taste good, they are just different flavors. Most vineyards are in beautiful parts of the world – winemakers and winery owners love nature, are incredibly generous and enjoy sharing great food and wine – it is tough to choose a favorite.

For work, I travel mostly to Bordeaux and Napa and have great friends in both. Bordeaux is impressive and Napa is the best preserved and the most friendly. Burgundy and Piedmont are incredibly beautiful, with great food.

What has been the biggest change in the wine business since you started?

JR: Two things: First, the increase in the price of wine. In 1990, when I started at Sotheby’s in London, if you told me that we would sell $90 million of wine at auction in one year and that Lafite 1982 could sell for $60,000 a case, I would have bought every bottle I could have and would no longer have to work.

Secondly, that the whole quality level of wine, at all price levels, has increased so much that it’s difficult to find a really badly made wine now. Twenty years ago, there was a lot of terrible wine made.

Where do you see the wine business headed?

JR: Twenty years ago, only Europeans and a few Americans were buying wine. Now, Asians compete with South Americans, Indians and Russians, as well as all of Europe and North America. If you combine the geographic expansion, with the demographic expansion, with wealth creation by a much younger generation, you have a significantly larger market today. Since production of the top wines remains static (one new vintage per year, less all the wine that has been consumed) and demand is increasing, I see wine prices continuing to rise over the long term. In the short term, the health of the global economy will have the greatest effect on prices.

Have you ever had “Two Buck Chuck?” (Two Buck Chuck is Charles Shaw wine that retails for $2 at Trader Joes)

JR: I haven’t tried it but I would be happy to. If it helps to introduce more people to wine, that’s great and there are plenty of excellent inexpensive wines that give a lot of pleasure.

Ha! I loved the last question and just had to share the interview. Trader Joe’s in Nashville is located at 3909 Hillsboro Pike  Nashville, TN 37215. 🙂 

Source: Sotheby’s International Realty Collections newsletter

About Sutton Lipman

Sutton Lipman Costanza is a native Nashvillian and a second generation REALTOR. She is excited and proud to be a part of The Lipman Group Sotheby’s International Realty team. Sutton graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from The George Washington University. Before selling real estate, she worked at Centerstone, a community-based behavioral health care organization in Nashville. In her free time, Sutton enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling, practicing Spanish, knitting and playing tennis. sutton.lipman@sothebysrealty.com or 615.438.6149
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