Dueling Auctions In HK: Acker Merrall & Condit’s First Auction Of 2011 vs. Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection At Sotheby’s

Acker Merrall & Condit Pulls In $10 Million While Sotheby’s Makes $5.6 Million

Bidders paid high premiums to own bottles previously in the collection of Andrew Lloyd Webber (Image: Decanter)

Bidders paid high premiums to own bottles previously in the collection of Andrew Lloyd Webber (Image: Decanter)

2010 may have been a banner year for the Hong Kong wine auction market, but 2011 already looks like it’s off to a strong start. This weekend, Acker Merrall & Condit and Sotheby’s faced off with two high-profile auctions, with the former offering 1,200 lots from various cellars at a two-day sale at the Island Shangri-La and the latter a collection of wines from the cellar of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. While we’ve become accustomed to seeing sell-out Hong Kong wine auctions inspire frenzy among bidders, the most interesting takeaway from this weekend’s auctions was the prominence of Burgundy and more interest in second-growth wines. As Hong Kong’s wine-buying and wine-consuming trends tend to spread to mainland China, in the next several months we could see major opportunities opening up for Burgundy producers.

From Decanter’s coverage of the Acker Merrall & Condit auctions:

Burgundy took centre stage at this Bordeaux- and Burgundy-dominated sale. The top-selling lot of eight bottles of 1985 Henri Jayer Richebourg went for US$100,103 while a 6-bottle case of 1978 DRC La Tache fetched US$65,692.

A Methuselah – equivalent to eight bottles – of 1985 La Tâche from DRC fetched US$50,051.

Acker Merrall CEO John Kapon said there were ‘numerous bidders back in America’ in addition to ‘strong participation by Hong Kong, mainland Chinese and Asian clients.’

Though Burgundy was arguably the star of the show, Decanter points out that two cases of Chateau Lafite 1982 — China’s favorite — fetched US$75,076 apiece – “$16,127 more than was achieved for similar lots from the Sotheby’s Andrew Lloyd Webber sale.”

Acker Merrall may have pulled in more for Lafite ’82, but the Andrew Lloyd Webber auction at Sotheby’s was no slouch. According to the Bordeaux Index, the higher-than-expected $5.6 million achieved by this sale, and the high premium paid by buyers, indicated three important trends in the Hong Kong wine market: Prices remain solid, bidders are increasingly collecting second-growth vintages, and buyers are starting to diversify away from Lafite.

While pre-Chinese-New-Year buying may have accounted for some of the buoyancy in prices at Sotheby’s, and some buyers were no doubt enticed by the prospect of drinking wines previously owned by one of the world’s most famous composers, this weekend’s auction has re-ignited discussions on whether the Hong Kong market can repeat the record results of 2010. According to Gary Boom of the Bordeaux Index, prospects look good over the mid-term. Said Boom, “In the macro sense, there are few signs of tightening in emerging markets with bumper growth projections forecast again for the key market of China. The Asian market will grow again this year and it will be led by China.”

The Bordeaux Index has also identified new trends that are starting to appear in Hong Kong, as buyers are becoming more sophisticated and moving beyond “big” brands. “They are already looking at second Growths and trying to move away from the perceived safety of the First Growths,” said Doug Rumsam. “It used to be solely Lafite that dominated, but we may see that shift. It doesn’t mean a downturn for Lafite – but more a case of diversification into other brands such as Châteaux Cos, Ducru, Duhart, Leoville Las Cases, Lynch Bages, Montrose, Palmer, Pichon Baron, Pichon Lalande and Pontet Canet.”

Added Rumsam, “These are being talked up as the play for 2011, mostly on the basis of rapidly rising first growth prices”

Definitely something to keep an eye on in 2011.

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Art & Auction, Food, Wine, & Spirits