There's buying wine at auction, and then there's buying wine at auction. Professionally run wine auctions by established companies that specialize in evaluating, pricing, and selling wine can be a great source of excellent wine for those with the interest, the money (no you don't need to be rich), and the time to participate. Christies, Bonham's & Butterfields, Sotheby's, and more regularly hold wine auctions where really fantastic wines can be had.
Ebay, on the other hand, sells stuff like this. (This is a PDF of the auction, as it was yanked 2 hours after I wrote this post)
In case you don't quite get the joke after seeing this (as far as I can tell totally legitimate and real auction), consider the following.
1. These are (a fact which is conveniently not mentioned in the auction title) ostensibly bottles of 1991 Jadot Beaujolais. Yes, that's right, Beaujolais -- the wine released each November that is designed to be consumed within months of its bottling. And to add insult to injury it's just a Villages wine, not even a Cru. The seller certainly has one part of his shtick correct -- they certainly are rare! Mostly because everyone drank theirs or threw them out decades ago.
2. If you look closely at the photos, you can see that the corks of both bottles are pushed out, one to the point of breaking through the foil cap. Not a good sign for buying any wine, let alone an old one. In my experience this happens usually for three reasons -- either the bottle has been severely knocked or shaken about, or the wine has been heat damaged.
3. The labels look like they've been underwater, or underground, or in a moldy refrigerator.
4. The bottles are fakes. This is according to some folks on the Robert Parker Bulletin Boards (where I found the link to this auction) who apparently know that on these bottles, the angelic little face should be in 3/4 profile, not in a frontal view.
Unfortunately, there's lots of fraud on eBay, of all kinds and colors, but things like wine are particularly vulnerable to scams like this because there's not always a correlation between the means and interest in buying expensive wine and the knowledge required to evaluate whether it's a good buy or not.
The lesson? It's certainly possible to buy good collectible wine on eBay but only if you really know what you're doing. Otherwise, stick with more traditional sources.
Thanks to Jack at Fork & Bottle for the tipoff.
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.
The Superb Grace of Old Vines: Drinking Janasse The Zinfandel Experience: January 31, San Francisco Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 4, 2015 Vinography Images: The Colors of a New Season Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 27th, 2014 Vinography Images: Rich Skies Losing a Legend in Serge Hochar Flirting with the Ecstatic: The Wines of Nikolaihof, Austria Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 20, 2014 A Grape By Any Other Name
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune