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A wine auction is an auction devoted to wine, sometimes in combination with other alcoholic beverages. There are two basic types of wine auctions: first hand wine auctions, where wineries sell their own wines, and second hand wine auctions, arranged by auction houses or other auctioneers to make it possible for any owners of wine to trade it. In most cases, the wines traded at wine auctions are collectible wine, so-called "fine wine". These are wines which are typically suitable for extended cellaring, and where some of the buyers are looking for mature wines which are no longer available through first-hand retail channels.
First hand auctions
First hand wine auctions are usually arranged by wine industry organisations, and fill promotional or charitable purposes, or are used to gauge the market. The wines sold at such auctions are usually special lot wines, or back vintages stored by the producers. An example of such auctions is the annual wine auction held by Hospices de Beaune in Burgundy, where Burgundy wines from vineyards donated to the Hospices de Beaune are auctioned off by the barrel, and often bought by négociants who bottle and sell the wines to the consumer market. Another example are the German wine auctions where mostly special lot wines are sold, and are bought by a combination of private wine collectors and wine dealers.
Second hand auctions
Second hand wine auctions are arranged by many major auction houses, such as Christie's and Sotheby's. Prices for many wines at these auctions are used as a price indication for collectible wine when traded through other channels, such as First Growth Bordeaux wines sold by rare wine dealers, or when négociants sell mature wines from their stock to restaurants.