Hong Kong Wine Auction Season Kicks Off With A Bang

“The Market In Greater China Is Becoming Increasingly Sophisticated Every Sale”

Wine has been a source of auction strength and advantage for Sotheby's and Christie's in HK

As some luxury brands fret about their short-term prospects in the Greater China market and observers await the upcoming autumn art auction season in Hong Kong, the first major wine auction of the fall reinforced the view that Chinese demand for top-flight wines remains strong. Held earlier in the week at Christie’s Hong Kong, the back-to-back sales — “Fine and Rare Wines: Pristine Rarities from the Cellar” and “Vintage European Treasures” — marked a solid start to the season, achieving an impressive 97 percent sold by lot and 98 percent sold by value.

Though enthusiasm for top-flight Bordeaux like Chateau Lafite has dimmed somewhat since its 2009-2011 explosion, local and telephone bidders showed that their love affair with Bordeaux is far from over. At the sell-out “Pristine Rarities from the Cellar” sale, which included three top-quality collections of Bordeaux, Mouton reigned supreme with sales of HK$1,080,000 (US$139,270), followed by Lafite at HK$960,000 ($123,796), and Latour at HK$864,000 ($111,416).

The shifting preference for Burgundy, which became increasingly apparent last summer, was also very visible at the sale, with Burgundies from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC) and older clarets attracting strong bidding. According to Charles Curtis MW, head of wine for Christie’s Asia, this was “indicative of an increasingly discerning group of buyers with clearly defined collecting tastes.”

The more diverse and larger “Vintage European Treasures” auction, which ended up 98 percent sold by value, was led by a 1990 case of Pétrus — a recent auction favorite among mainland Chinese collectors — which reached HK$420,000 ($54,164) and an assortment of 1985 DRC that sold for HK$288,000 ($37,139).

Top-flight Burgundy continues to reign supreme, though Chinese collectors are broadening their buying habits

As Simon Tam, head of wine for Christie’s China, reflected on the sale, the results confirmed a number of recent industry observations on the Greater China wine auction market. Said Tam, “Wine lovers are seeking quality wines for short to mid-tem cellaring, and to serve as perfect gifts in time for festive occasions surrounding the Mid-Autumn Festival.” As Tam added, the education level of Chinese collectors has increased rapidly in recent years “as buyers grow progressively knowledgeable about grape variety and provenance, and develop a keen interest in the culture surrounding wine.”

Tam noted that the expanding palate of Chinese wine collectors and wine lovers is now moving beyond classic Bordeaux and Burgundy vintages and into regions such as Condrieu, Hermitage and Rioja. This fits with statements made by Curtis earlier this summer. Said Curtis after Christie’s “Fine and Rare Wines: Featuring an Important European Cellar” sale in June, “Confirming recent trends, there was competitive bidding for Burgundy, for white wine and for Bordeaux’s “Super Second” growths, and ever stronger results for Italian and Napa Valley wine. Buyers eagerly snapped up both older vintages and large format bottles, again showing that collections here are broadening.”


Art & Design, Market Analysis