Complacent about wine storage security? A cautionary tale

For Wine Merchant Tuggy Meyer, the loss of £200,000 worth of his wine from his professional storage provider earlier this year is not a myth within the fine wine industry and worryingly, nor is the theft an isolated incident.

Inconceivable though it may seem, Meyer’s high value stock was lifted through the roof of the bonded warehouse during the weekend, when no staff were present and CCTV cameras were not monitored. You can imagine how on Monday morning, footage would have revealed the sorry tale, the real sting of which for Meyer was to find that under the terms and conditions of his storage contract, only £1000 of his loss was covered.

As wine writer Jancis Robinson highlights in her recent article, ‘Storage – time to tighten up security’, Meyer is understandably concerned about the ‘widespread ignorance in the wine trade of how increasingly vulnerable fine wine is.’

 

At a time when losses in transit and consignments arriving short of a stock are on the rise – the vulnerability of wine only heightened by the fact that a high proportion of drivers are contracted these days – security has to be paramount.

As Robinson’s article reveals, at Octavian, ‘drivers are allowed on the premises only if they are on that day’s rota; every case is checked and photographed on arrival and despatch; every truck is carefully inspected.” In other words, rigorous processes are in place at Octavian’s Corsham cellars. According to Robinson’s source, ‘other professional wine storage sites have little or no security’ and the ‘only safeguard on stock is that contracted drivers are personally liable for any losses.’

“Obsessive” about security.

When Robinson says Octavian is ‘obsessive’ about security, Vincent O’Brien, Octavian’s Managing Director, wouldn’t disagree.

“We are fanatical about security and rightly so,” he says. “There’s an overwhelming complacency within the industry that all warehouses are the same and simply put, that’s just not the case.

“At Octavian, the extra care we take and the steps we have built into our processes to make them invulnerable may seem ‘obsessive’ but we and our customers are happy with that label. It differentiates us in the market and

underpins our proposition. We’ve also been described as the ‘Fort Knox’ of wine storage and certainly, wines stored with us are physically safe, stored underground in perfect environmental conditions; they’re handled with the utmost care and each case carries our storage provenance.

“Importantly, in a climate where wine values are rising and the potential losses are ever greater, we have secured exceptionally high insurance cover, with full compensation for stock should the unexpected happen.”

Robinson’s article cites insurance as ‘the big issue’. “Some but by no means all warehouse-keepers offer full insurance that replaces losses at current value, the last phrase being crucial in this era of rising wine prices.” Her advice? “Now that fine wine is so valuable it is probably worth treating it to top-quality storage, and reading the terms and conditions in fine detail.”

“Ask the right questions,” concurs O’Brien. “Don’t assume that all warehouses are the same in the environmental conditions they offer and the security measures that they have in place. And certainly, when it comes to insurance – whether you are choosing a professional wine storage provider or are indeed seeking your own cover, be sure to read the small print.

“Where insurance is provided by storage providers, be mindful of the actual value covered. Octavian insures to £500m but often, cover doesn’t come close to the value of stock held. And if you are sourcing your own insurance, look out for exclusions – such as ‘mysterious disappearances’ and ‘unforeseen shortages’ i.e. theft. Pounds saved and complacency could prove very expensive.”

Please contact us or click here to find out more about Octavian fine wine storage services.

Read Jancis Robinson’s full article and an edited version published in the Financial Times.

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