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Last time, I passed on a description of one way a customer of ours ran the Wine Wall at her auction. This time, let’s talk about three decisions to make when designing the Wine Wall item for your auction. Because what works for one group may not work for another…

First, how many bottles of wine should you have in the wall?

There’s all sorts of considerations here: the size of your guest list, the number of avid wine drinkers in the audience, the amount of wine you can procure. So any answer I give you will need to be adjusted a bit. But I won’t let that stop me from giving you this answer:

If it is the first year you are including a Wine Wall at your event, don’t start with more than 25 bottles. If you can procure 50 or 100 bottles of wine, wrap and number them all, and set the quantity for 50 or 100 in your database, but only put out 25 when you set up the room, and hide the others.

Wine Walls often need a bit of explaining to a crowd that has never seen them before. And they do depend more than a little on a perception of popularity - if you have only sold 15 or 16 out of 100 displayed bottles in the first hour of your event, those other 85 bottles are going to look an awful lot like unwanted goods. Whereas if there are only 10 left, you can build a sense of urgency around the need to grab the remaining few before they are gone.

Once you’ve established the Wine Wall as a fun, successful item at your school auction, and more of your guests know what to do when they see it, you can increase the number of bottles to better match the size of your crowd. That said, I seldom see a Wine Wall with more than 100 bottles - it really becomes a challenge for the crew you have collating and distributing the auction items at the end of the night if you add more than 100 bottles to the rest of your catalog.

Next, how do you price each bottle?

You have a few choices here - the most common are to price it at the average value for the actual bottles you have procured, or at the minimum value of any of the bottles you have procured. The latter is more guest-friendly, and easier to sell - you tell the guests that the bottle they get is worth at least what they’ve paid for it. The former is more lucrative for your event, and lets you spin it as more of a game of chance - pay your $15, and you might get a $60 bottle of really high-end Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley, or a $6 bottle of Undifferentiated Red from the Cash-n-Carry.

To open, or not to open?

Depending on state law, the policies at your auction venue, and your insurance coverage, you may be able to offer your guests the opportunity to open and drink the bottle they purchase at the event (the guest may have to pay a corkage fee). Find out well in advance - before you even begin procurement. By the way, if you haven’t read Sherry Truhlar’s article on avoiding licensing mistakes in our auction guide, you should.

Wine Walls are a lot of fun, and excellent money-makers at most school auctions. I encourage you to consider adding one to yours, and in the weeks to come, I’ll be looking for fun twists on the concept to tell you about.


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