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Provenance - Explained

Imagine you buy an old, expensive bottle of Burgundy from a private auction. You don’t know much about the bottle’s history, but at $200 you’re sure it’s going to be a great wine. That weekend, you open the bottle with a few friends to celebrate an important occasion.

You pop the cork with a sense of anticipation, and pour out a few glasses. But when you take the first sip, something about the wine tastes off. The fresh fruit flavors are stewed, muddled and muted. Or maybe it tastes vinegared and acidic, or like mildew and cork.

What happened? 

Most likely, at some point in your bottle’s history, improper storage or handling resulted in a wine fault, robbing the wine of both flavor and value. 

And therein lies the importance of provenance.

What is Provenance?

Provenance is the French word for source, or origin. 

In wine, it refers to the history of ownership of a bottle, including how it was stored and handled before coming under your possession.

Wine is a delicate thing. Expose it to too much heat, light, or vibration, and it’s likely to develop off flavors. Store it upright too long, and the cork can crack, letting air seep into the bottle. There are many avenues by which a wine can turn sour, but with proper storage and handling, the risk of wine faults are reduced almost to zero.

Why Provenance Matters

As you can imagine, provenance is of huge importance in wine investment circles. When bottles can reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, investors want to be absolutely certain that the wine they’re buying is in good condition - and to avoid the possible scams and counterfeiting that inevitably follow such a high price tag.

But even if you’re buying more modestly priced bottles for your own consumption, it’s worth thinking about provenance for one simple reason: If you’re going to drink it, you want it to taste as good as it’s supposed to! 

There’s nothing sadder than popping the cork on a great bottle only for excitement to sour into disappointment when you take a sip, and find out your bottle hasn’t been looked after properly.

The Perfect Provenance of BurgDirect

There are a few ways to ensure the good provenance of your bottle, and they basically boil down to purchasing from trusted retailers or wine collectors. If it’s a really old and expensive bottle, some accompanying paperwork and documentation is usually in order as well.

But whether you’re buying to drink, invest, or to store for another day, the very best way to ensure good provenance is to buy directly from the winery itself. Producers have the knowledge, facilities, and incentives to store their wines properly, and to make sure it reaches the buyer in pristine condition.

Therein lies a big benefit of BurgDirect. The wine bundles found in our email offers are actually stored in France, in the producer’s cellars, and when orders come in they pack up and ship off the bottles themselves. There are precious few intermediaries touching or transporting the bottles, thus avoiding potential midstream storage issues when long distribution chains and sometimes warm store shelves are involved. BurgDirect not only works directly with the the domaines to pack the wines, but we partner with Cote d’Or Imports, a custom US-based importer, who is well known in Burgundy and takes great pride in ensuring proper handling of the wines from winemakers’ cellar doors to each customer’s front door. The wine arrives at your doorstep in perfect condition, and the only surprises you get after popping the cork are happy ones!

  BurgDirect is a monthly newsletter of Burgundy wines curated by our founder, Jeff Rubin. Sign-up is free, takes just a few minutes, and keeps you up to date on exclusive bundles from our partner domaines in France. Orders ship straight to your doorstep and include all taxes, customs and fees. If you’re interested in signing up to our newsletter, click on one of the buttons below or send us an email at info@burgdirect.com