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June 05, 2014

Belgravia Residents Journel: A Liquid Investment

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By Nik Darlington, June 2014, Belgravia Resident’s Journel

Nik Darlington heads to fine wine merchants IG Wines to talk collecting and investing with a little help from its new mobile app…

Attention from the Far East is waning, while Bordeaux is coming off the back of a run of average to  awful crops: it’s a depressed market. There remain good returns to be made on fine wine but it takes expert knowledge, a reputable merchant or broker and a long-term game plan.

IG Wines, a fledgling London firm, seems to be bucking the trend with new technology and fresh insight. A fine wine merchant and investment advisory company, IG Wines was set up by Paul Hammond and Jonathan Hirsch to offer investors and collectors, in their words, ‘An experience we’d like to have ourselves.’

I meet Paul and Jonathan in one of Pimlico’s more refined class of boozers. Both come from corporate backgrounds, but both have longstanding involvements with wine. Jonathan has a lengthy family history in the stuff – his mother is a wine merchant and co-owner of the Dulwich-based Wine Net. The seed of this idea was perhaps sown a while ago for Paul too, who as a child would pretend to ‘cellar’ even the most basic bottles of wine. He went on to work in the industry for several years and helped set up wine charity 2 Water.

It doesn’t take long to see what is most refreshing about IG Wines: they actually want clients to drink the stuff. ‘We wouldn’t get far if we had a 100 per cent investment portfolio,’ says Jonathan. ‘We’re wine lovers, and our clients are wine lovers.’ What’s more, they have taken the smart decision to branch out from the mainstream investment vehicles of Bordeaux and to a lesser extent Burgundy. To deploy a terrible pun, bottles from these regions are the most liquid assets, but other regions are coming up the rails, such as Tuscany, Piedmont and the United States.

IG Wine’s online magazine delivers good in-house content, from wine news and travel to regional information and vintage charts. Many of IG Wines’ clients are time-poor professionals, wanting quality content quickly and efficiently. I’ve seen a lot of dull, recycled wine ‘education’ sections and this isn’t one of them. It’s very well-laid out, whether online or on the new smart mobile app.

Here things start getting really impressive. IG Wines has spent the better part of a year developing the technology behind its new app, including an online platform, “Vinvault”, which lets you manage a portfolio, access live market data and trade wines. Coupled with the “Universe” – ‘fine wine’s first investment universe,’ I’m told – it is the most comprehensive single source of historic and current data I’ve seen. Data is pulled real-time from Liv-Ex (the wine market’s FTSE 100) and Wine-Searcher (a global search engine and price tracker for even the most basic of wines). Just as importantly, the app looks good. Clever technology isn’t all that clever if you can’t get around it. Unusually for me, I actually found browsing the charts and figures exciting. Wine geeks and laymen alike will just enjoy playing with it all, whether or not they’re ready to dip a toe in and trade some wine.

Its potential applications are fascinating. IG Wines claims to be able to identify hidden value sweet spots that actually circumvent the upper echelons of investment grade wines to find fine wines that are still sensible to buy and drink. This is where IG Wines’ strategic focus on alternative regions like Tuscany comes into its own. The technology can even track a client’s portfolio and notify them when they’ve probably got more wine than any sane person could ever drink and suggest what, how and where to sell some. What’s more, all of this is free to use. Why? IG Wines wants to make buying all sorts of wine – not just the stellar first growths – easier for as many people as possible. Through word of mouth, events and careful cultivation of contacts over the past two years, IG Wines now delivers content and cutting-edge technology to approximately 65,000 subscribers. This is wine investment for wine lovers.

Download the app from the app store or visit igwines.com

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