Auctions In First Six Months Of 2010 Amounted To HK$400 Million (US$51 Million)
Hong Kong has emerged as Asia’s wine auction hub over the past two years, driven by the enthusiasm of local wine lovers or new mainland Chinese wine collectors, but on the strength of wine auctions from the first six months of this year it appears that Hong Kong is on track to become the largest wine auction market in the world. According to a recent article in the South China Morning Post, wine auctions thus far in 2010 have pulled in a total of HK$400 million (US$51 million), with high-profile auctions like the Sotheby’s and Christie’s Spring Auctions and record-breaking US$20 million Acker Merrall & Condit surpassing the expectations of many in the wine industry.
If Hong Kong maintains this momentum throughout the remainder of the year, it will likely surpass sales in the U.S. — which have remained lower in the wake of the global economic crisis and fell some 36% in 2009. However, keeping up the pace set by the rare and large-scale auctions we saw in the last few months in Hong Kong won’t be easy.
[Wine consultant David Wainwright, formerly with Christie’s international wine department,] said part of Hong Kong’s meteoric ascent up the ranks of global wine sales comes at the expense of the US as major auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Acker Merrall & Condit shift more of their wine stocks – that would have been sold in the US – to Hong Kong in the hope of achieving higher prices.
This has the effect of boosting Hong Kong sales and also buoying prices in the US because of less competition among auction houses in New York. New York-based Acker Merrall is expected to derive three-quarters of its total revenue from its six Hong Kong sales this year.
“I do not think it is the auction houses but rather the consignors themselves that are requesting Hong Kong,” Acker Merrall president John Kapon said. “There is an aura about China and its developing market that many want to try first-hand. However, I would not underestimate the interest that remains in fine wine in the rest of the world.”
This is where the possibility that Hong Kong might emerge as the world’s top wine auction market — and stay there — gets complicated. For the city to stay “on track” to top the U.S. this year, we’ll have to see a steady stream of high-profile auctions in Hong Kong and a sustained drop in interest and buying in the U.S. While it’s quite possible that the much-talked-about Chinese interest in and exuberance for wine may send Hong Kong to the top of the wine auction heap this year, it is highly dependent on several factors, not least of which is whether there’s actually enough supply to match the demand — not just in HK but around the world — and whether the demand in China will substantially diversify beyond European reds to the point where a more vibrant wine auction market can develop.