Thursday, May 31, 2007

Your Dinner With Conrad

As we all know, the clinically insane have so far invested enough in '05 Bordeaux futures to drive the price of the more prestigious wines out of the reach of all but the Conrad Black/David Radler set. So for the merely wealthy, who want to guzzle a bit of the action by placing themselves somewhere between the Moutons who produce and the muttons who buy, it's becoming fashionable to sniff out a Wine Investment Fund. Unfortunately, like a lot of other hedge funds, when you dig a little, a lot of WIF's smell pretty corked.

Take the International Wine Investment Fund---please. While their website paints a picture of a company where every day is like the 2000 Bordeaux harvest (a disclaimer that the site's authors can't actually vouch for the truth of their claims is a particularly nice feature) a look at the books shows a lot more red ink than red wine. (Further oxidizing details here.)

Independent journalism about WIF's can be hard to come by---a typical press-release-disguised-as-news can be found here---although at-home research can start as simply as a Google search. Still, it's a grim subject, and you're never really able to shake the feeling that arm's-length investing in classic wine amounts not only to a guarantee that you'll never drink it, but that you'll ultimately end up selling it to somebody you don't like.

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