Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Now here’s an idea I can go for: wine as collateral

For my sins, I work in the insurance industry. It’s a vague arm – editorial, rather than sales – so it earns me comparatively little but at least it allows my conscience to sleep easy-ish.

It also scares the screaming bejeezus out of me – I’m forever downloading hair-raising stories off the wires, about how I’m not saving enough for my retirement (dogfood as dinner is doubtless in my ill-planned-for future), how my house will burn down and leave me (because I’m so frightfully underinsured) with nothing but the raggedy underpants I stand up in, and the reasons I’m just three short months from being on the street drinking cheap liquor out of brown-paper-wrapped bottles (I’m an active, rather than a passive, earner).

Also, I work in wine – I’m a contributing writer to the yearly South African Platter Wine Guide, a vast compendium, tirelessly researched, of the country’s wine industry. (Also, I drink a lot of it.)

Now, at last, my two creative arms have reached around and clasped each other: tonight I learnt, from a young winemaker of good repute, that there’s a French bank that will accept wine as collateral for loans.

I’ve seldom been so thrilled. I raced home, hopped on the Internet, and learnt the following from a May edition of the Los Angeles Times: Le Crédit Municipal, a Paris pawnshop that dates back 1777, will accept wine as collateral for ready-money loans. (Cash Crusaders, where are you now?)

Le Crédit Municipal has a long track record, having given Auguste Rodin the readies for new tools (in exchange for pieces of his sculptures ) and accepted Claude Monet’s wife’s ‘beloved medallion’ (for, we have to assume, lily-hued watercolours). This discreet Right Bank stone building has, apparently, a ‘sprawling underground maze of rooms’ holding 76 000 boxes of jewellery, racks of furs and countless odds and ends, plus an art collection second in size only to that of the Louvre.

And now there’s wine: the pawnshop recently granted a loan against a 1986 Romanée-Conti, an ‘admired’ Burgundy wine worth about R80 000.

For me, this couldn’t have come at a better time. Deep in hock for the controversial improvements to my barathrum, I’ve set aside my bargaining tools to take to Nedbank tomorrow: a case of Chateau Libertas (R18.99 a bottle, bought on special at Checkers this weekend) and my very best pyjamas (which I will wear, not offer as surety).

Wish me luck.

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