Sotheby’s Fine Wine Auctions Sell $8 Million, 28% Over High Estimate, As Chinese Collectors Dominate In Hong Kong
This weekend, Sotheby’s began a five-day string of auctions in Hong Kong — continuing until October 8 — with auctions of fine wine from the cellars of two anonymous American collectors. Though one of the world’s newest hubs for wine, due to a combination of ending wine duties, encouraging mainland buyers to take part in wine auctions, and growing demand both in Hong Kong and in mainland China, Hong Kong has within a few short years become the #1 auction market for wine, supplanting traditional leaders London and New York. From James Pomfret in Reuters:
“Asian buyers represented 99 percent of buyers in this two-day sale,” said the head of Sotheby’s international wine department Serena Sutcliffe. “Hong Kong has become Sotheby’s most important wine center, ahead of very successful auctions in New York and London,” she added in a statement.
Last month, U.S. wine merchant Acker Merrall & Condit sold $6.4 million worth of fine wine in a Hong Kong sale which Acker’s president John Kapon said indicated Hong Kong’s role as “arguably the fine wine world’s most important market.”
Christie’s said Asian buyers accounted for 61 percent of its global wine sales in New York, London and Hong Kong this spring, up from just 7 percent in 2005. Of these, buyers from greater China — including Hong Kong, Taiwan and China — grew over 200 percent between fall of last year and this spring.
David Elswood, Christie’s international head of wine, told Reuters that with the U.S. market still weak, its nascent Hong Kong sales were encouraging. Average lot values of wines sold in Hong Kong were now relatively high at around $19,000, though sales volumes were not yet up to the West.
It’ll be interesting to see how the auction business in mainland China develops, in terms of wine sales, in coming years. Although foreign auction houses are not allowed to operate in the mainland, home-grown auction houses like Poly and Guardian could — feasibly — start their own wine sales in the future. With domestic wineries and joint ventures like Chateau Lafite/CITIC working towards producing export-quality vintages inside China, the idea of Western and Asian collectors stocking up on Chinese wines as future investments — a farfetched idea just a few years ago — could become reality.