LONDON - Friends and family occasionally ask what I actually do for a living. It would appear that my explanation, usually over lunch or dinner with a glass or two of something nice to oil the wheels, gets somewhat lost in translation. So I sense here an opportunity to throw a little light on the world of Sotheby’s Wine department.

As a collector, what do you do when you realise you have far too much wine in your cellar? Make a plan such as this perhaps:

•    Breakfast – Dom Pérignon 1990
•    Lunch – Lynch Bages 1989
•    Dinner – Mouton 1975 (ready now) or if you’re impressing, the ’86 or the ’82…

It’s a rather extravagant daily routine and surely to be frowned upon by one’s physician, but stick to it religiously and you might just make headway into your collection. You never know, you might even find out what lurks down there in the very back of your cellar.

However, the stark realisation that your wine collection will most probably outlast you could be the catalyst for thinning out.

Many of the more interesting cases that come to auction only see the light of day when I, or one of my esteemed colleagues, unearths them from the dusty depths of a crammed cellar. It’s not a pretty sight I can assure you. The usually impeccably turned out Sotheby’s expert, scrabbling about on his or her hands and knees, up to their elbows in 40 year old cobwebs, trying to read the tattered remains of a damp stained wine label. In the dark. The only consolation is when the kindly vendor offers us a sandwich at lunch time, perhaps with a glass of something interesting we’ve found in the cellar to help wash it down. It is these moments, when we are blessed with sunlight and fresh air, following several hours of darkness and dampness, that we can stop, sniff, swirl and finally savour the liquid that has dragged us down there in the first place. Provided we don’t drink it all, the best discoveries will find their way to the auction room.

It’s not all glamorous you know.  But if it weren’t fun we wouldn’t do it.