Rare Auction Will Include 102 lots, Estimated At Over HK$20 million (US$2.5 Million)
Kicking off this Friday, February 10, the highly anticipated “Finest and Rarest Wines: From the Private Cellar of Henri Jayer” auction at Christie’s Hong Kong has inspired a great deal of chatter among insiders in the Asian wine auction industry. Comprised of 102 lots, estimated to sell for more than HK$20 million (US$2.5 million), the sale features impeccable provenance — the bottles have never been moved from their location in the Jayer family cellars and are in perfect condition — and includes some of the best vintages to ever be produced in Burgundy, which among collectors in Hong Kong and mainland China is becoming a preferred region.
As Jing Daily wrote of the auction last month:
Coming from the cellar of the renowned master of Burgundy, Jayer, the Christie’s sale comes just as wine collectors in mainland China and Hong Kong continue to shift from Bordeaux to Burgundy. As such, we should expect a record-breaking auction, even though the sale is packed with more esoteric names to which newer collectors may not be accustomed. Serious buyers and enthusiasts, though, will be thrilled at the prospect of getting their hands on Jayer’s Richebourg, Échézeaux, Cros Parantoux, and Vosne-Romanée.
While we won’t be surprised to see sky-high prices for Jayer’s rarest vintages, this week the Hong Kong-based wine and cigar merchant Thomas Bohrer looks at the upcoming auction and asks, “Are Jayer Wines Worth That Much Money?” From the article:
I am just looking at the estimates of the wines, and considering the eagerness and willingness of collectors I have spoken to, I fear that prices will reach stratospheric highs. For example, the estimate for two magnums of Richebourg 1985 is HK $500,000 to HK $700,000. Let’s say the auction hammer falls at HK $600,000 – that will make those two magnums worth US $46,000 including buyer’s premium. Even a case of Vosne-Romanée 1995 is estimated between HK $150,000 to HK $200,000. And this is only a village wine! Even if it sold at the low estimate, that makes it US $2,000 a bottle! Same price as Richebourg 1995 from the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti! It is insane…or is it?
Okay. To be fair, the wines have the best provenance possible. They come straight from the Jayer family’s cellars and they are in immaculate condition. They have never been moved from their home. And as a bonus, they are all packed in original wooden cases. This is rather special, as wines from Henri Jayer were always packed in paper cartons rather than wood. There are only two exceptions: one is the wines released now and previously from the family cellar; and the other is wines that were bought on release by the world famous restaurant Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence.
If prices for lots at the Jayer auction do indeed reach the “stratospheric highs” Bohrer foresees, we can safely say that two factors — provenance and region — will be the main drivers. Collectors, particularly those from mainland China (where wine counterfeiting is endemic) have consistently gone far beyond high estimates for wine lots with excellent provenance. Last November, one such buyer, Shenzhen-based media businessman Dong Guo, purchased nearly every lot at a Cornette de Saint Cyr auction of wines from the collection of the French film and stage actor Alain Delon. At another November auction, a private Asian buyer — thought to be Chinese — purchased an extremely rare set of 14 bottles and a custom console of Chateau Haut-Brion for HK$1.2 million (US$153,960).
In other wine news, the Grape Wall of China blog reports today that France’s dominance of the imported wine market in China became even more pronounced last year, as the country “lengthened its lead in terms of both volume and value.” As the article notes:
Overall, the [wine] market soared to 241 million liters in 2011, up 65 percent over 2010, according to Customs data. (Note: the following numbers were provided by an industry insider who crunched the data.) France beat the average, rising 73.9 percent to reach 117.9 million liters, giving it just under half of market share. Meanwhile, Australia, long the bridesmaid, continued its slide despite growth—37.2 percent—that would be impressive anywhere else in the world. Here are the numbers for the “big six” nations that represent ~90 percent of incoming bottled wine.
The next two biggest players, South Africa and Portugal, saw strong gains: the former rose 101.4 percent to 4.6 million liters, while the latter rose 106.4 percent to 3.5 million liters. Rounding out the top ten, Germany and Argentina lagged: The former rose 22.5 percent to 3.5 million liters, while the latter rose 24.3 percent to 3.4 million liters. Just outside the top ten, New Zealand was up 46.8 percent to 2 million liters.