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The wine trade uses auctions to move surplus stock, and a small but influential group of wine lovers buys and sells fine and old wines "collectables". Occasionally these auctions hit the headlines when century-old bottles sell for very high prices. Most fine wine bought and sold at auction is from the last three decades: vintages that are ready to drink or will soon become so.

Fine-wine auctions are held in London, Geneva, Amsterdam and some American cities. The most widely traded wine is red bordeaux, with vintage port, white bordeaux and burgundy also represented at most sales. Buyers should obtain a catalogue and check the terms of business carefully: a buyer's premium, and in some cases value added tax and duty, will need to be added to the price. Check also the sizes of the lots, usually (but not always) multiples of a dozen bottles. The source of the wine is important: the catalogue will give details. Some wine may be in less than top condition owing to having been shipped across the Atlantic and back as investors and speculators buy and sell stock.

In addition to fine-wine sales, some auction houses hold sales of cheaper, everyday wines. These can include wines from bin-ends and bankrupt stocks.

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