With global wine auction revenues tumbling year-on-year, auction houses worldwide have been rethinking ways to target their most important buyers. One of these houses is Christie’s, which recently started introducing themed auction lots catering to Chinese buyers’ tastes in a “Fine and Rare Wines” sale on March 21-22. Featuring three “Oriental-themed” lots named after Chinese mythical creatures, the auction sold off 96 percent of its lots, and 98 percent by value, with its 10 best-selling lots all snapped up by Asian buyers.
While not as spectacular as Christie’s previous “Fine and Rare Wines” auction in November 2013, which collected $9 million, this event pulled in a respectable $8 million with wines from the usual favorite terriors of Burgundy and Bordeaux, as well as wines from Italy, Spain, and California that did exceptionally well.
“We are delighted to see the theme of this collection—worldwide vinous journey—is not only represented by the variety of the wine sold but also by the participation of buyers from 14 countries across Asia, Americas, and Europe,” said Simon Tam, head of Christie’s China’s wine department, in a press release. “The resurgence of interest proves the depth and width of the wine market in Hong Kong. This is another successful sale in Hong Kong for Christie’s to underline our position as a global leading wine auctioneer.”
The top 10 wines sold were still dominated by Burgundy, with Bordeaux coming in a distant second—eight of the top lots were Burgundy and only two were Bordeaux. This is similar to Burgundy’s triumph over Bordeaux at Christie’s previous auction in November, with seven of the top ten lots being Burgundy, and three being Bordeaux. Domaine de la Romanée Conti stole the limelight once again, with a 1990 vintage that was sold to an “Asian private buyer” for $127,860, well above its estimates of $77,655-$103,540. All of the other top lots either went to Asian buyers or traders.
The three Chinese mythical creature-themed lots, including the exquisite “Dragon” lot targeted at collectors and the “Phoenix” and “Qilin” lots targeted at drinkers, all achieved their price estimates. The “Dragon” lot, estimated at $28,000-$45,000, sold for $31,709, and the “Phoenix”, estimated at $12,000-$16,000 went for $13,476. The “Qilin” was estimated at $10,000-$14,000 and was sold for $11,098.
While not performing wildly beyond expectations as the powerhouse Burgundies did, Christie’s foray into themed lots catering to the Asian buyer’s taste is off to a profitable start. The fact that all top sales went to Asian buyers will serve to bolster auction houses’ confidence that their move to focus on the Chinese buyer is a step in the right direction.