Well-implemented and simple to use, but as with a traditional auction you still need to be knowlegeable and confident to purchase wisely.

Winebid is a US-based Internet-only wine auction house which has been trading since 1996. It launched its British wine auction arm in spring 2000, when it opened offices in Covent Garden, London. The opening screen features buttons for each of their auction sites: US, Australia and UK. Click on UK to browse or take part in the UK auction. Buying wines at the other auctions is possible, but beware high tax and shipping costs if you do! Buying wine at auction, whether terrestrial or real-life, will not appeal to everyone, but Winebid do make the process fairly straightforward, and the excitement levels of bidding and waiting in expectation are much the same as in the heat of the sale room. Winebid holds regular time-limited auctions, each running for around ten days. These might be the contents of a private cellar that has been put up for sale, or a miscellaneous collection from numerous different sellers.

WHAT'S ON OFFER

Buying Wines at Winebid For now all bids are in US dollars, so you need to work out a conversion rate before you bid. If the company is serious about its UK business, surely this must change? Remember too that like most auction houses, there is a buyer’s premium to be paid on top of the hammer price. In this case it is 12.5 per cent on all purchases. The Provenance — a potted history of ownership and conditions of storage — is given for each lot, as well as a guide price and a reserve price.

Although you may browse the site quite freely, should you wish to bid you must register. The registration process is quite simple: you are asked to supply full contact information as well as valid credit card details via a secure server, although nothing is charged to the card until you buy some wine. Having registered you will be issued with a six digit ID number which is what you need to make subsequent bids. As you view wines, you can enter a bid via the bidding bar, or use Autobid. Autobid is a mechanism which allows you to specify the maximum price you will pay for a lot, and have the system automatically increase the bid in response to bids placed by others. For example, if you are willing to bid up to $75 for a lot that is currently at $45, your first bid will go in at the next increment, which is $50. If other bidders increase the bid, the system will automatically increase your bid up to your maximum.

Selling Wines at Winebid The seller’s premium at Winebid is also 12.5% on all sales, so the company makes money at both ends of the deal. You submit a list of wines to Winebid for a free appraisal. If you are happy with Winebid's appraisal, you must send the wines to the London facility (Winebid can help arrange shipment). Once Winebid have received the wines, their inspectors will look at each bottle and generate the cataloguing information which will be provided at the auction. You will be assigned an account manager who will also provide a final appraisal taking into account the condition of each bottle. Winebid will also recommend a reserve price for each wine. Your wines will be incorporated into the next auction with space available. Settlement cheques are mailed 35 days after the close of the auction. Winebid claim that the vast majority of their wine is sold in its first auction, but any wine which does not sell is catalogued and sold in a subsequent auction.

OTHER FEATURES

Clicking the Customer Service tab reveals quite a bit of helpful information to guide you in how the buying and selling process works. The Winebid FAQ explains common terms that are used in the fine wine and auction world. For example, the term ullage is explained by clear diagrams.