Let your money ferment

6th April 2007 at 01:00
If it doesn't work out, drink it. Alison Brace finds one investment which always pays off

As you unwind over the Easter break, with the promise of summer just around the corner, your mind - or even your nose - may be turning to the finer things in life... like wine.

If a glass of your favourite tipple is synonymous with rest and relaxation, and you feel comfortable talking about "gooseberry notes" and "tannic finishes", maybe it's time to raise your game.

Forget booze cruises and the supermarket's latest special offer, we're talking about investing in wine. The easiest way is to buy en primeur - wine before it is bottled. You may have to wait two to three years but your money could double if you have selected well.

"If you were to buy a Chateau Margaux ready to drink now, you would be looking to pay pound;3,000 for a case," says Vincent Gasnier, who advises the Houses of Parliament, as well as top hotels and restaurants on wine selections. "If you buy it en primeur you would pay pound;1,500."

But you need to go to a reliable merchant, says Vincent, who became the world's youngest Master Sommelier at 21. "There are so many people who would be happy to take advantage of your lack of experience."

Try trusted wine specialists such as Laithwaites or Berry Bros and Rudd and check out their dedicated en primeur deals. They each have their own wine advisers.

Or you could even employ Vincent. For 5 per cent commission, he will check you are plumping for the right vintage and not just buying because you like the label.

If your budget is more modest but you still fancy buying wines to lie down, you should be looking at between pound;12 and pound;20 for a bottle of red wine, he says.

Bottles costing between pound;7 and pound;10 should be drunk within two years, those under pound;7 within six months to a year. When it comes to white, spend a minimum of pound;15 to enjoy it in five to 10 years' time.

Or how about combining investment with a holiday in France by renting a row of vines for a year?

For as little as pound;75, you can rent vines in a named vineyard with the help of 3D Wines and pick up your bottles once the wine's ready. It makes an ideal gift - and a good excuse for a trip across the channel.

If you decide to invest in wine, remember it's fun. If your investment doesn't work out as intended, you can always drink it. The same can't be said of bonds and unit trusts How to Choose Wine by Vincent Gasnier, Dorling Kindersley, pound;16.99.

His online advice service www.bottled4u.com is expected to be up and running by June.www.vincentgasnier.co.ukwww.laithwaites.co.ukwww.bbr.comwww.3Dwines.com

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