Trying to Create an American Model of Wine Futures

on 30/12/14 at 11:50 am

Industry, Wine

indexA couple trained in finance wanted access to rare Napa wines; they developed a new sales model.

In 2005, Serge Marquié and Sally Wilkinson had a problem. After their twin sons were born, they wanted to secure some great wines from the boys’ birth year. But while they were able to get their hands on some wonderful Bordeaux, en primeur, obtaining collectible Napa wines proved difficult. All of the desirable wines were either spoken for on mailing lists (or waiting lists to get on mailing lists) or swept up at auction at substantial markups to release prices.

The two parents, who happen to be experts at solving financial problems of great complexity, thought: Why is it easier to procure a first-growth from a highly rated vintage than a great wine from Napa? Their solution was E-Cep, an American take on futures, where consumers can buy bonds guaranteeing them top Napa wines while those rarities are still aging in barrel.

The couple are wine fans but not industry insiders, and had no link to the trade prior to starting E-Cep. Marquié holds a doctorate in game theory from Harvard and was the former joint-head of Goldman Sachs’ Latin American Financing Group. Wilkinson was the U.K. economist for Deutsche Bank and an economic advisor to the British Conservative Party.

E-Cep customers don’t buy wine—they buy a bond, a financial IOU. An E-Cep bond is a guarantee for the offered wine upon release. Wineries that have partnered with E-Cep include Carter Cellars, Dana, Scarecrow, Outpost and Dancing Hares, among others.