Auction Houses Squeeze In Hong Kong Wine Sales Ahead Of Chinese New Year

Rare Bottles To Go Under Hammer This Coming Weekend

Lafite has lost its position as the most sought-after wine in China, but rare lots should continue to find buyers

Lafite has lost its position as the most sought-after wine in China, but rare lots should continue to find buyers

Coming off a record-breaking 2011, during which Christie’s Hong Kong sales rose 92 percent and Sotheby’s recorded its second highest annual takings in 41 years of wine sales, major auction houses are wasting no time taking advantage of continued momentum in Hong Kong, the world’s top wine auction market. Looking to get a series of sales in before Chinese New Year, this weekend Acker Merrall & Condit and Sotheby’s will follow Zachys in offering many of the wines to which Chinese collectors have gravitated in recent auctions, including a double magnum of 1870 Château Lafite, rare bottles from Burgundy producer Henri Jayer and 90-year old Champagne. Following the shift we saw over the course of 2011 among Chinese collectors, moving from strictly red Bordeaux from top producers like Lafite and Latour towards Burgundies such as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC), observers expect top-tier Burgundy to be a bright spot in the run-up to Chinese New Year.

As the Wall Street Journal writes today:

“The truly rare and sought-after is getting good demand, but the other stuff you can get everywhere, like young Bordeaux, hasn’t done so well,” said Charles Curtis, Christie’s head of wine for Asia. “What is taking off is the old bottles, or the very rare like [Bordeaux’s] Château Le Pin, and Burgundy, because production there is so little.”

Christie’s Hong Kong sales rose 92% last year, and the auctioneer starts 2012 in early February with a $2.4 million sale of rare lots from Burgundy’s Henri Jayer. While Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is Burgundy’s most sought-after producer, with bottles regularly going for $10,000 and up a bottle, Jayer prices are not far behind.

Though upcoming sales are expected to be quite successful, the bar has definitely been set higher this year. As Jamie Ritchie, president of Sotheby’s Wine, Americas and Asia, put it, “There’ll probably be fewer auctions [in 2012], and the numbers a little less.” If this is the case, provenance and diversification will likely be the two key words in 2012, as Chinese wine collectors and drinkers look beyond the usual Bordeaux or Burgundy and possibly even start to buy white wines in meaningful amounts. As Acker Merrall & Condit CEO John Kapon recently told the WSJ, “DRC has become the strongest brand in the market and certainly taken over Lafite […and some] of the Bordeaux energy is also diversifying into California and Italy.” Diversification away from red Bordeaux among Chinese drinkers and collectors should benefit a wide range of producers, and see France’s years-long domination of the country’s high-end slip even further.

But just to be on the safe side, Sotheby’s and Acker are covering their bases this weekend, offering plenty of top-tier Burgundy and the aforementioned 1870 Lafite, so rare that it has no pre-sale estimate.


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