Geneva, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – The pleasure of owning good wines that you want to set aside to age into fine wines can diminish sharply if the only place you have to keep them is an overheated storage room next to the soap-smelling laundry area in the bottom of your apartment building. Filip Opdebeeck is a young (27) but experienced wine steward who worked with several producers in Switzerland after school and then managed a popular wine bar in the centre of Geneva. Opdebeeck sees a growing need, in a city of winelovers, for an affordable storage space, not too far from home, where wines can age well, be safe from theft and be retrieved easily. His new company, Au bonheur du vin Suisse, offers a bank vault near the Place Molard in the centre of Geneva, to solve the problem.
Au bonheur is a French company that was started three years ago. Opdebeeck has the Swiss license and he had the bright idea of using a typically Swiss bank vault, where security is assured, the storage space is odor-free, cool and temperature-controlled.
A key to the young company’s success is likely to be the ease with which you can rent and manage your wine cellar. The registration fee is SFr45. For SFr10 a month you can store up to 24 bottles. You can carry on indefinitely, storing hundreds of bottles, with the per bottle monthly fee falling from approximately SFr5 a bottle per year as the amount of wine stored increases. The service is clearly not designed for those who limit their wine purchases to SFr10 or under bottles and who drink as they buy, but for anyone who has bought good wine, then opened it after three years of poor storage conditions, the service could have great appeal. A bonus is that, like a modern bank account, you can manage your wine account online, making withdrawals and deposits and have wines delivered to the Au bonheur du vin bank.
Opdebeeck says his clients in fact fall into three categories: "Expatriates, often home owners who, for professional reasons have gone abroad. They often have large private cellars, anywhere from 600 to 3,000 bottles. These are usually wines that age well and have a certain value, like Bordeaux. They take advantage of the online service which lets them keep an eye on their cellar from abroad, order wine and have it delivered here."
A second group is people whose storage space is far from perfect or has no security, or who have no cellar at all. "They usually don’t have many bottles when they start out, maybe 50, but their cellar can grow easily thanks to our service. They go for the same type of wine as the expatriates. And they use the home delivery service, or some come to collect their own wine."
Not surprisingly, professionals also take advantage of the service. Small business importers, restaurants and hotels have many more bottles and tend to rent the space for shorter periods, when they are renovating or have a temporary overload of bottles. "They also find our wine-moving service useful," says Opdebeeck.
"We’re aiming for a fairly demanding clientèle, people who buy for the pleasure wine gives but for whom it’s also an investment. That’s why we have as many people who love food and wine as there are investors working with us. But we also want to work with a younger group, people from 25-35 who don’t just need a place to keep their wine but who are looking for sound advice to help them build a cellar."
The traditional Swiss solution has been to put wines in cool cellars in old chalets and in the 1960s when new homes were often built with bomb shelters these basement areas were put to work. Not everyone who buys wine has a villa, however, and urban apartment blocks are usually short on good wine storage space.
If you pay SFr20 for a bottle and store it for four years, you will
spend twice the original price, which may or may not compare well with what you would have to pay for it on the market. This assumes the wine is readily available, often not the case with older Bordeaux or Burgundies.
The new Geneva wine bank delivers or clients can pick their wines up directly at the bank, but security clearance is given only to the wine stewards.
Opdebeeck, a graduate of Geneva’s hotel school, uses plain language to talk about storage conditions but he waxes poetic when it comes to what he offers: "helping with the pleasure of putting together a wine cellar, building a kind of library for the senses."
Au bonheur du vin offers clients several services in addition to wine storage, such as a wine exchange for buying and selling, tasting sessions and wine service at home, and catering for special events, in partnership with Les plaisirs des saveurs of the Geneva Hotel School.
contact: Filip Opdebeeck
- tel: +41 22 310 79 80
- e-mail: email@example.com