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Thursday, 15 July 2010

Encarta Fine Wines Ltd: 'the worst case scenarios from our company' (part 1)

I have received a recent enquiry from HM about Encarta Fine Wines Ltd

HM
'I have been approached by Encarta Investment Group regarding investing in wines. They are offering 2009 Carruades de Lafite - Rothschild. Half a case for £2,200. They cold called me earlier this year.

I declined their offer then, but said I might be interested in the future. Since then I have received calls and emails.

My response
Encarta Fine Wines Ltd was set up on 9th July 2009 with Dean Doughty as the director and Lucy Damato as the company secretary. A further director, Matthew Hart, was appointed on the 19th August 2009. The company's website was registered on 5th October 2009. Its registered office is at Mayfair House, 14-18 Heddon Street, London W1B 4DA.

However, the Encarta Fine Wines' website explains that its origins were earlier than this:


'Encarta Investment Group was founded in 2006. When the company was formed, we believed that there was the need for a good, down to earth, friendly and helpful fine wine investment company offering a range of fine wines from Bordeaux. A sort of antidote to the increasing anonymity and sameness of the big chain stores. We have been rewarded in the enormous increase in wine investors and the resulting growth in demand for en premier first growths.'

Encarta Investment Group is not a limited company. Its address is Fox House, 135 High Street, Bromley BR1 1LF. There is one similarly named limited company in the Bromley area – Encarta Associates Ltd, which founded on 5th August 2009 at Imperial House, North Street, Bromley BR1 1SD. This was also the registered office of Encarta Fine Wines Ltd until 7th October 2009 when it was changed to Heddon Street.

However, the company would appear to trade from the Bromley as this just ad indicates:

'Encarta fine wines
(London/South East) Full Time Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Job Description:

We currently have full time investment broking vacancies in our team on the trade floor, this is available for driven, money motivated individuals with a passion for sales. Those with experience in stock broking, wine broking or land broking are ideal – although if you have a strong sales background and are sharp on the phone, we want to hear from you! with a basic salary and a strong ongoing commission structure, this is the perfect role for those looking to develop their sales career in an exciting, fast paced broking environment

This is not a job for those afraid of hard work, the job involves speaking to investors across the UK and IRELAND, no matter how wealthy! The hours are long, the job is tough & demanding, BUT the rewards can be tremendous!
hours 10.30-7.30pm
salary is 800pcm to begin with (comissions on top) with huge potential for promotion in a short period of time for the right candidate.
OTE 50,000 to 100,000 a year
Location: Bromley, Kent

Compensation: 800pcm

Telecommuting is ok.

Encarta Investment Group Address: Fox House
135 high st
Bromley - BR1 1JF
Kent
Contact: Dean'

Back in February in an exchange of emails Matthew Hart explained the company background:

'Encarta Fine Wines Ltd was registered with companies house in 2009, however has been sole trading since 2006 on very a small scale basis, but must also highlight a mistake* you have which is I am not the sole director, our prices are generally around 25% above the prices shown from some of the larger Merchants for example Farr Vintners, but within this increased price we include storage for up to 5 years**, and of course advice on purchasing.

We can resell to existing clients & potential new clients, portfolios of existing clients thus offering only a 5% selling commission. So I agree we may be more initially to purchase, but also offer investment advice for this service, but are less expensive to sell the portfolio.


I myself have been a lover of fine wine and have visited Bordeaux region wine tasting etc, as this is a passion of mine.'

My notes:
* Correct Dean Doughty is also a director
** Five years storage at LCB's Private Reserves is £71.91 inc vat.

2009 Carruades de Lafite - Rothschild
There is no doubt that the price of Carruades de Lafite has shot up in spectacular fashion over the past few years. In June 2006 you could have bought a case of 2005 Carruades for £335. Today the cheapest price on wine-searcher is £2600. This rise is entirely down to the Chinese affection for Lafite. and not through a re-evaluation of its intrinsic quality. Carruades is essentially the second wine of Château Lafite, although grapes from some parcels of vines that wouldn't go into the grand vin are included and it has a higher proportion of Merlot. In China it is apparently known as baby Lafite. All in all an example of a bubble that may or not not burst – hardly the sort of wine with which to start an investment portfolio. 


From the Encarta website:
'At
Encarta we take great pride in helping our clients build the perfect investment portfolio of fine wine.'
 
'Our experts will help you source and choose the wines that represent good value.'

Encarta's price for six bottles of 2009 Carruades is £2200 (equivalent to £4400 for a case of 12).A quick look at wine-searcher.com shows that a number of companies are offering a full case (12 bottles) of Carruades at prices ranging from £2400 (Albany Vintners) to £2800 (Farr Vintners are at £2700). In this instance Encarta are a whopping 83% more expensive than the cheapest established fine wine merchant. Encarta: 'the wines that represent good value'!!

I emailed Matthew Hart asking about both the pricing and the choice of Carruades de Lafite as a starter wine for a portfolio. 

Matthew Hart's response (15.7.10): 
'You seem to pick the worst case scenarios from our company, In our opinion Carruades de lafite offers fantastic investment grade wine & returns.

What about the 2007 Lafite Rothschild that we are selling at present for £6000 are you willing to say that this is not competitive??

It seems to me that you have nothing better to do that contact us and keep checking up on our pricing structure!

I suggest you try and track down the scam companies out there that are not actually purchasing wines!!

I am sure one call to LCB and they will confirm that we have a constant stream of wine going into accounts held there.

I will not reply to any further emails that you send to us.'

My response:
Your price for 2007 Lafite is certainly more competitive than that quoted for 2009 Carruades. However, it is more expensive than any other companies currently quoted on wine-searcher.

It is also more competitive than than the example of growth sent out by Paul Stapleton on Tuesday, June 22, 2010 featuring 2007 Leoville Las Cases, 2005 Lynch-Bages and 2006 Pichon Lalande. All, particularly the Léoville las Cases and 2005 Lynch Bages well over market price.***

Although I could phone LCB and they might confirm that Encarta have an account with them, they are not going to tell me what is in the account nor what comes in and out, nor whether cases enter at a trickle or a flood. Incidentally when did Encarta open the account at LCB?
  
Naturally it is entirely up to you whether you respond to my questions. It remains proper that I give you the opportunity to respond.



*** I will be commenting on the example of growth sent out by Paul Stapleton in a separate post. See part 2 here.


My advice
Although they may have done a small amount before the company was founded in in July 2009, Encarta Fine Wines Ltd has no track record, particularly in relation to buying en primeur. I wouldn't advise buying en primeur from Encarta until they have established a track and trading record. Nor would I advise buying bottled wine from them until they become more competitive and cease trying to sell investments through cold calls.   

40 comments:

  1. But the 2007 Lafite is a good price!

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  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  3. I acknowledged that it was a more competitive price. The further post on Encarta will show further high prices.

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  4. As a tellemarketer for a large wine firm, we find it beneficial for cold calling. Many of our clients know nothing about wine investments and it is the perfect opportunity to discuss it with them. In the real world, it is the best and cheapest form of Marketing. Lagitament and successful firms and companies do a lot of business through cold calling. You shouldn't discredit cold calling unless you have specific proof of a company frauding customers

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  5. Anon. You may find it beneficial but my understanding is that cold or unsolicited calls selling investments are banned for those products coming under the scope of the FSA as this extract from their site shows.:

    (http://www.fsa.gov.uk/smallfirms/resources/faqs/mcob_financial.shtml)

    I believe that these rules apply to wine funds that are under the aegis of the FSA as they are collective investments.

    'Handbook FAQs: Mortgage Conduct of Business rules - Financial promotions (including cold calling)
    I get some of my business through cold-calling and have heard you do not allow this: why?

    We think that cold-calling can expose consumers to high pressure sales tactics which mean that they end up with an inappropriate or over-expensive product (or service). Our financial promotion rules therefore ban unsolicited real-time promotions (cold calling) unless there is a pre-existing customer relationship through which the consumer expects to receive such promotions. This carries forward an approach we first set out in our Consultation Paper CP98, which respondents broadly supported.

    Our rules allow you to continue to use legitimate lead generation techniques, such as consumer questionnaires, providing consumers clearly understand how their data is being used and agree to be approached by a mortgage firm.

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  6. Thank you for your reply. I see your post and it is indeed interesting, however we have been in the industry for 20 years and i know that our compediters have also using the same techniques and still are. I also have friends at business in insurance companies using the same techniques, what about 02, Vodafone, Stocks and shares? Im almost certian that these techniques are used. In the modern world im sure that most of the planet in business use this form of telephone communication, after all we are living in 2010 (the future)

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  7. Anon. Thank you for your response.

    The advice from the FSA looks pretty clear. I will check with some wine investments funds if they are allowed to use cold calls.

    'Stocks and shares? I'm almost certain that these techniques are used.'

    Certainly used by Spanish boiler rooms selling penny shares but legitimate companies – I doubt it.

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  8. Anon

    Regulation para taken from The Wine Investment Fund:

    'Regulation: The Fund is a collective investment scheme which is an unregulated scheme as defined in FSMA and the (Promotion of Collective Investment Schemes) (Exemptions) Order 2001 (the “Order”). The Fund will not be authorised or otherwise approved by the FSA. Accordingly it cannot be marketed to the general public in the UK and can only be marketed in the UK to certain categories of person, under certain circumstances. Pursuant to FSMA and the Order, the only categories of person in the UK to whom participation in the Fund may be promoted are (i) eligible persons who fall within Article 14 of the Order, (ii) high net worth corporate and unincorporated bodies and trusts which fall within Article 22 of the Order, (iii) certified sophisticated investors who fall within Article 23 of the Order and (iv) eligible counterparties and professional clients who fall within Category 7 of the Table in COBS 4.12.1 of the Conduct of Business Sourcebook which forms part of the FSA’s Handbook of rules and guidance.

    The Wine Investment Fund’s Information Memorandum is issued by Mazars Corporate Finance Limited.  Mazars Corporate Finance Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority.'

    Reinforces my belief that legitimate wine companies should not be using cold calling to sell wine investments.

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  9. Anon

    Further confirmation that cold calls are not allowed for Wine Funds. This from Andrew della Casa, director of The Wine Investment Fund:

    'You are absolutely right that an unregulated collective investment scheme such as The Wine Investment Fund should not be sold through cold calls.  Indeed, it should not, in general terms, be sold to any private individual except through an FSA registered person/entity who/which specialises in advising on the acquisition of investments of this type.'

    Although selling individual cases of wine as an investment currently falls outside the aegis/scope of the FSA, it is strongly my view that reputable companies involved in this type of wine investment should nevertheless see that they meet the same standards in relation to marketing that the FSA require from a collective investment.

    If you do indeed work for a large, well established and reputable wine company you should make it clear to the management that cold calling is not an acceptable way of marketing and selling wine investments. It also does nothing for the reputation of the fine wine trade.

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  10. Anon

    Further to your comments about stocks and shares, from a wine forum:

    'As to his comment about stocks and shares, he clearly hasn't a clue what he is talking about. I speak as someone who held a senior management position within an SFA registered investment house - cold calling is virtually forbidden in every conceivable circumstance.'

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  11. Anon

    Gary Boom, partner at the Vintage Wine Fund, has also confirmed that wine funds are forbidden by the FSA to cold call.

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  12. Hi Jim. well you certainly have all the ammo of comments and qoutes from various people so i am rightly corrected. however im sure that whom ever is in business worldwide does it, even if they are not supposed to. After all the world is a big place and much business to be done via the telephone. So jim what is it that you do for a job apart from blogging about various companies?

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  13. Anon

    Thanks for your comment. My comments are specifically about cold calling not the use of the phone in general. As far as I what I do, please have a look at my profile on the top right of this blog.

    Jim

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  14. ah ok, so I see that you are a freelance writer, very interesting. So is it that you write about companies more than wine itself? did you have a problem in the past with a company and wine you bought? or is it a passion of yours to seek and shame the bad/good companies of the fine wine sector? Forgive me for my out spoken questions but i am just curious to know more about you...

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  15. Dear Jim
    Cold calling is not illegal if the investment is not regulated by the FSA or comes under its jurisdiction, such as selling wine physical or en primeur but not as a fund.

    Irrespective of whether ethical or whatever you may feel that it may be immoral. It is not illegal yet.

    However, Encarta prices are more like being dined by a great white shark as their pricing is exceptionally steep and makes it impossible for there clients to make a profit within 5 years as they have chosen second growths, this practice has been used by a few other wine investment houses. By the time the wine comes to the same purchase value the clients will be persuaded to swap for different wines tying them to the company, or maybe told they have made a profit when they havenot and the new wine marked up even more

    so they do not seem ethical in there business practice, the only one making a profit and getting rich is Dean Doughty

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  16. From Companies House

    DAMATO, LUCY SECRETARY
    85 SHAXTON CRESCENT
    NEW ADDINGTON
    SURREY
    CR0 0NW Appointed: 09/07/2009

    Appointments: 3

    DOUGHTY, DEAN DIRECTOR
    34 HAYES GARDEN
    HAYES
    BROMLEY
    KENT
    BR2 7DG Appointed: 09/07/2009
    Nationality: BRITISH
    Occupation: WINE SPECIALIST

    Date of Birth: 17/01/1979
    Appointments: 6

    HART, MATTHEW MR DIRECTOR
    WOODLANDS 27A FOX LANE
    KESTON
    KENT
    UNITED KINGDOM
    BR2 6AL Appointed: 06/08/2009
    Nationality: BRITISH
    Occupation: NONE

    Date of Birth: 02/01/1975
    Appointments: 3

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  17. Anon

    Thanks for your comment. I agree from the prices I have seen Encarta's pricing is decidedly steep. Unfortunately the company does not publish a price list.

    I'm aware that cold calls for investments not covered by the FSA are not illegal. I hoped I had made this clear in my earlier comments. I do strong believe that reputable wine investment companies should not make cold calls.

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  18. Anon. Thanks for the details from Companies House.

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  19. Jim

    Apart from the annoyance factor, I have no ethical reason for opposing cold calls in principle. If someone has something that I want but I am unaware of it, I would like to know. How many times have you said to yourself "I wish I knew about that before"?

    Wine investment is a unique mode of savings which very few people are aware of.

    But the key must fit the lock. The customer has to be very clear about why and how he wants to achieve a return. And the seller must be able to match those criteria.

    What is currently happening is that the sellers have no idea whatsoever about their product and will say whatever is necessary to offload his stock. Essentially, it is snake oil to cure any illness.

    With absolutely no regulatory controls for the investment selling of wines, you are banging your head against the brick wall. Like Hydra, cutting off one source will only allow more to flourish.

    As you swim against the tide, I wish you well

    -philip

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  20. I dont believe cold calling is a problem and wine investment does seem the right thing to do especially considering the volatile nature of stocks and shares at the moment and to reiterate a previous comment several companies in several countries use cold calling as it has proved extremelly cost effective and if the seller knows his stuff and can ensure good returns then the investment can be beneficial.

    The recent news alone tells you the impressive nature of the wine investment market and this trend is expected to continue especially with increasing demand from the far east.

    The prices are what they are but when considering investments you have to go with a company you trust and who can maximise your returns so visiting the website or reading their brochure would be the best decision if you wish to make an informed decision

    Alan

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  21. Anon. I have been contacted by a large number of people who would be considerably more wealthy if they hadn't accepted a cold call.

    Of course it is possible to make money through wine investment that is not in question but you need to buy at the right moment, at the right price and from the right company.

    The majority of dubious wine investment companies do not list wine prices on their sites nor details of those running the company.We are entire agreement over the need to 'go with a company you trust and who can maximise your returns'.

    It is worth remembering that booms have a nasty habit of turning into busts just at the moment when they look like sure fire winners.

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  22. I have been plagued by cold callers trying to get me to invest in land banks, fine wines, carbon credits and removing virusus from my computer.They say theres one born every minute so the scam market will thrive.
    Yonder comes a sucker.

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  23. Some of those Anon comments must be from Encarta Fine Wines, or as it was once known

    Bordeaux Wine Consultants Limited

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  24. Jim
    Liberal Democrat Councillor Paul Kyriacou of Southwark London Borough Council, who is also a former Mayor of Southwark, is one of the so-called "brokers" working for Crimson Fine Wines Ltd.
    http://moderngov.southwark.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=181
    http://www.london-se1.co.uk/community/councillors/paul-kyriacou
    He describes himself as “Portfolio Manager/ Investment Broker at Crimson Fine Wines Ltd”
    http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/paul-kyriacou/11/3b6/521
    Would it not be a good idea for you to contact Paul Kyriacou and ask him for an interview?

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  25. Edited comment by anon:

    I Think I'll stick with Jim's Advice and stance...

    In recent years a cold callous un-ethical parasitic practice has developed within 'wine sales industry'..
    Bullying 80 yr old's on the phone into being totally ripped off for their life's savings....Bordeaux UK for example...I've listened in on these telephone sales tactic's. Most 80 yr old's don't stand a chance against these bully boys...I hope you all have heart attacks and die at a young age whilst sniffing your cocaine and drinking your champagne and driving under the influence of your drink & Drugs in your Aston Martin's. I hope some fly boy cold caller rings your 80yr old Dad and sells him sand for his life savings..to see how you feel... apart from feeling gutted for the old man..I'd take the greatest pleasure and laugh in your face..Get a proper job you maggot's, and think about the old age pensioners that you've ripped off.

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  26. DJWN

    Encarta has never changed its name since incorporation, so really you & Jim Budd really do need to get facts correct before posts are allowed on Blog!

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  27. Anon is right. According to Companies House records DJWN (13.3.12) is incorrect Encarta Fine Wines Ltd has not changed its name since its incorporation. It was, however, briefly threatened earlier this year with closure for non-compliance – failure to file its annual return on time. Bordeaux Wine Consultants Ltd is a separate company. Its annual return has been overdue since 26.11.2011.

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  28. Most interesting the comments I also got cold from Paul called and took at half case a couple of years ago. I have repeatedly as for a current value and to sell since last October. was advised to wait for new year to get better price. Then told its a bad time in the market. All requests have been totally ignored by Encarta which makes me believe this might be a scam operation. All I get are calls offering me further wines with a similar promise of good returns. I have had to accept that I will never see any money back or wine. Be very careful with this company its clearly not what it claims!

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  29. Maybe Mr wells should as i presume he does not at present have a account witha storage facility ?? To open a storage account with London City Bond or any reputable storage facility is quite simple i did this and Encarta transfered the wines to me that were owed not that difficult really! And as a follower of wine for many years i cannot but agree with Mr stapleton about holding on to stock at present as the wine market has dropped slightly over the past 12 months a buyers market rather than a sellers unfortunatly..

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  30. Encarta Fine Wines returned me £49,500 today from a 3 year hold - now how is that for an investment!!!!????

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    1. Anon. Your claim is meaningless without details of what you invested in, at what price, how much and how much you reeived for your wines.

      Worth notting that all of Liv-ex's indices are down over the last year by between 19.03% (Liv-ex Bordeaux 50) and 31.62% (Liv-ex Fine Wine 50).

      Delete
    2. Not very good if you put £60,000 in, but since you're making it up, it's irrelevant.

      Companies that use hard-sell cold call tactics are not to be trusted, and it sounds like Encarta aren't even solvent.

      Delete
  31. Just got off the phone having suffered another five or six minutes of hard sell by one of Encarta Fine Wines' bully girls. Today's 'curtesy call' advised me that wines were increasing in value between 18 to 20 per cent. No time scale was give but I assume the term was annual. I've had dozens of calls from this company and don't know how I ever got onto their calling list. It's usually a smooth talking guy who could convince you that bottled ditch water was a good investment if you didn't know better. Often there's talk about rich Chinese wine drinkers in Hong Kong pushing up prices, and earlier in the year the Olympic games was going to generate a massive rise in wine consumption in the UK. How that was going to effect the price of investment wines was never explained! Out of amusement I've strung them along a few times and after about half an hour of telling them I wasn't really in a position to invest they come on fairly heavy and start going through the setting up of an order for a trial half case that always costs a bit over £2,000. I'm always asked for my full details and no doubt if I went along with this bullying my bank account would be debited for something of little, if any value, assuming the wine exists in the first place. Today's caller was obviously new to scamming and was ill prepared when I asked why it was that if wine was going up 18 to 20% as she said that that price hike was not reflected in the price of wine in-stores. She fluffed her answer and a few other things and when I asked her what the returns were likely to be in bad harvest years she resorted to pretending that she could no longer hear me and hung up! I wish she stayed on the line longer I was just about to ask her what her opinion was on the terroir debate! I studied wine at university as part of a degree course (geography, not at the bar!) and I know that a genuine wine professional would be able to debate that issue at length. Encarta's entry at companies house is quite interesting. As of 9 July this year ENCARTA FINE WINES LTD had Cash at Bank of £101,522 and a Net Worth £-83,683 (yes that's a minus figure!) One has to wonder why, if wine investment is as profitable as they say, they haven't thought of investing in fine wines themselves! If they are right they could be solvent!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks anon. An interesting contrast with the claim above.

      Delete
  32. Hi again,

    It is indeed an interesting contrast! But I strongly suspect that scammers from Encarta trawl blogs such as these so that they can place misleading messages for the unwary. Encarta also take genuine news and wine related video and republish it to You Tube with the Encarta Fine Wines Ltd name attached making it appear to be supportive of their organisation. Each video relates to fine wines and / or wine investment but none of the videos that I've seen ever mentions Encarta Fine Wines in the dialogue. One video they use is from the BBC's One Show and another is from BBC London TV News. Perhaps the BBC should be looking into this misuse of its programming! Anyone who wants a good laugh at the amateurish nature of this company should have a look at what's on offer here: http://www.google.co.uk/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4ADFA_enGB405GB405&q=encarta+fine+wines+you+tube

    I'm using Anonymous on here simply because I don't want them to identify me. I'd miss their calls ;-)

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  33. Greetings,

    I have recently been in contact with Encarta Fine Wines on two occasions and I found them to be monumentally skilled and businesslike.

    I spoke to a young man who directed me to the First Growth Fine Wines they have to offer, all graded 90 points Robert Parker and above. The gentleman was professional and handled my questions with supreme depth as to why Fine Wine was a tax free safe haven and how if the right wines were picked a return of between 8-14% was available to the average but informed investor, all CGT free of course.
    Not only did the young broker seem to expertly schooled it seemed as though he was genuinely interested as to what I wanted from my investment predominantly, which I would say is paramount as to making a business partnership like this work.

    Furthermore their wines are stored in London City Bond under the client's name and are insured as well, which makes me feel a lot safer than a few other wine investment company policies i've come across.
    I'm still looking around and haven't obligated myself to anything as of yet, I'm going to look into their policies and procedures and will be asking more questions, however very impressed with their customer service and expertise in the market as of yet.

    With a commodity such as Fine Wine rogue traders will always misrepresent it I have found, but impressive start with Encarta, I have a good feeling my money would be in safe hands if their performance so is anything to go by.

    Mr M. Lakes

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    Replies
    1. Jon Sims Williams1 March 2014 18:04

      Mr Lakes, I am glad that you have had success in getting your wine transferred to your name at London City Bond by Encarta. I have asked for my wine to be transferred to an account in my name and nothing has happened in 2 months.

      Delete
    2. Apart from non-delivery of wine – Jon in the case of non-delivery have the statutory right to cancel and to receive your money back within 30 days, First Growths from a recent good vintage are unlikely to be exempt from CGT.

      Delete
  34. Now that Encarta have gone under, is there any scope for investors to have their wine transferred into their own name at LCB?

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    Replies
    1. Anon (5.8.2014). You need to check with the liquidators Abbott Fielding of Sidcup. My guess is that much will depend upon whether the wine in the Encarta account can be identified clearly as yours.

      Delete