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Excellent provenance is what you should expect from us
What we look for when buying a bottle?
We find out as much as we can about the history of bottles that we’re interested in buying. We find out about the storage conditions and find out as much as possible about when and where it was obtained by the seller. A bottles provenance - its source, life cycle, and storage - is of the utmost importance when buying a bottle. In general, one can say that a bottle should look its age.
The source of the bottle
Where was the bottle that is on offer obtained? Was it at one of the dominant auction houses or in a store? Is there documentation available to support this? Is it just an odd bottle the seller is offering or is it from a cellar of a genuine collector who really cares about spirits and wine and stored them in perfect conditions? How many bottles does a store offer? Are they specialists in vintage bottles?
There are key indicators that should alert you to problems with older bottles. The most common visible factor indication poor storage is seepage, low levels and raised or sunken corks, indicating exposure to fluctuations in temperature.
With bottles that are of significant age, a certain degree of soiling or damage to labels is to be expected. Damp stains on a label indicate that the bottle comes from a damp cellar, which can destroy a label with mold, but the higher humidity makes bottles less prone to leakage. Bottle labels yellow or wrinkle naturally over time while being stored at optimum temperature and humidity. A faded label, however, is a worry, since it suggests overexposure to light. Thus, as long as provenance is impeccable, soiling of this kind in aged bottles should not detract from value.
With a 1789 Cognac, for example, stored for over two centuries in an excellent cool cellar, one would expect the liquid to be minimum around the shoulder of the bottle by now, and such a level would indicate a satisfactory standard of storage. A high fill level is a sign of quality storage.
Spirits are stored in an upright position. This causes the cork, over time to take on a mushroom shape. This in itself is not a problem if also the fill level of the bottle is high enough.
Sunken or raised cork
A sunken cork by more than 2mm is likely a sign that the cork may be defective or “easing” and increases the chance that the liquid inside is exposed to oxygen. A raised cork is an indication of faulty storage as the temperature raised to a level that the evaporation of the liquid started to push the cork out.
Older bottles have a lead capsule or wax layer to seal the cork. If the seal is damaged this can be an indication of mistreatment or that the bottle was opened. However, some chipping of wax is to be expected. Non-original waxing should come with a reasonable explanation and/or documentation by the seller. Some corrosion on the capsule is normal. Corrosion on top of the capsule, advanced to the point where there is a hole in the capsule, increases the chance that the cork is bad. Sometimes the capsule is missing or cut to inspect the authenticity of the cork, this is known to happen and acceptable. Sometimes the entire cork is exposed. This is relatively common and does not indicate anything in particular about the liquid condition.
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