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Hedgies Learn It Through The Grapevine

Wine-loving hedge fund pros who want to turn their passion for the fruit of the vine into profit can do so with the help of Becky Wasserman.

Wine-loving hedge fund pros who want to turn their passion for the fruit of the vine into profit can do so with the help of Becky Wasserman. Bloomberg News reports that for the past decade, Wasserman, a former New Yorker who moved to France to sell oak barrels, has been attracting hedgies who want to get into the real wine action in the little quaint French town of Bouilland. There, for seven days, and for $8,350, a group of 10 wine aficionados learn firsthand what it means to own a wine "domaine," as the vineyard plots are called, or businesses that till the soil that grows the grape that makes the wine. Among those in the recent class, which is held twice a year, was Robert Lyster of New York-based Lyster Watson Management, who has purchased the Burgundy winemaker Mason Camille Groud. "Burgundy is a unique area," Lyster told Bloomberg News, "and one of those rare investments where you invest more with your heart than your head." Another hedge fund professional in attendance, Paul Chiu, research director at Greenwich, Conn.-based Wexford Capital, says his partners "have no idea" what is involved in wine-growing. "If you screw up a Burgundy wine investment, you'd better be real thirsty," Chiu said in a Bloomberg News interview. As far as Lyster is concerned, wine is a good way to soak up all those extra bucks hedgies have. "There are a lot of guys on Wall Street who have too much money and don't know what to do with it," says Lyster, "so Bordeaux wine futures are perfect investment excess." Adds Wasserman, "Owning a domaine is a venture capitalist's dream. The highest of risk. If the weather is good and you're really lucky, you might make a 4% return. But owning a domaine is the greatest lifestyle imaginable." The hedgies reportedly are grapeful for the experience.

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