With over 1.2 million cases of wine in its cellars, Octavian is the epitome of wine custody for the modern age. As the market develops, so too does its Octavian Vaults service offering. We find out how the business has been evolving and how it ensures it stays at the very top of its game with managing director Vincent O'Brien

A key part of my responsibility is trying to understand our customers’ requirements, but also using our position as experts in our field to pre-empt what their needs may be, before they’ve even thought about them, and that’s where we add value.

People initially only saw us as a warehouse facility, when actually where conventional warehousing finishes is where we normally begin. The packaging, the variability of the product, the care and attention that the product requires and the lack of conformity within the product range makes fine wine storage far more complicated! Add to this the fact that you’re dealing with private individuals rather than organisations – people with emotional connections to their collections. It drives us to offer a different service proposition. 

The value of customers’ wines, which often runs into the hundreds of millions, also plays a huge element in how we have evolved the business. Our focus is on managing that risk on their behalf, through insurance - we’re insured to the highest levels in the marketplace – and whether we’re moving, storing, collecting or monitoring wines, best practice and watertight processes mean there are never any oversights. These cases are with us for, on average, six to seven years, and we invest a huge amount of care and attention in them right from day one, because often we are the only physical inspection point for the customer.

With an in-cellars photographic studio, wine condition and ullage can be demonstrated to buyers and sellers

Most of our customers are buying through a third party; they’ve never physically seen the case and they’ve bought through an image. So a large part of our role is verifying that what they’ve bought aligns with their expectations. Sometimes we can be overly pedantic but we take that high level of responsibility seriously. For me it’s about instilling the highest standards from the very start and providing a constant level of service. I believe that it’s our diligence and custodian approach that really does distinguish us from a simple warehouse.

In an unprecedented move, we’ve recently brokered an agreement with a bank where one of our collectors has taken out a loan against his collection. Thanks to the quality of our storage facility, coupled with our levels of security and culture of care, the bank was happy for the collateral to sit within our care on its behalf, and for the collector to release value to invest elsewhere. This minimises any fuss for the client, makes the bank’s life easier, and we’re sitting in care of the stock as we were before. News of this first loan agreement has prompted a few more enquiries.

Octavian’s premium cellarage services provide a peerless storage environment

We’ve also recently secured the service of a Master of Wine as a part of our proposition, helping people assess their collections for valuation purposes. We often attract collectors who have wines that readily change hands, so we now have the means to ensure the right evaluation, all as part of our service proposition. 

As the market is developing we are finding that people are looking for more reassurances, greater control and transparency – the level of scrutiny is changing. We see the addition of our Master of Wine as a crucial element in our proposition to provide clients with that extra layer of assurance. There is always a slight element of concern about the standard of wine that’s being sold in the secondary market. If people have questions, they don’t have to go outside of our services to seek answers and surety.

Because of the depth of the treatment in The World of Fine Wine, it attracts subscribers around the world who are seriously interested in wine. And those, of course, are the people we want to reach and whose needs we are proud to serve.

The World of Fine Wine is delighted to have Octavian Vaults as the principal sponsor of the 2017 World’s Best Wine Lists awards.