Recent Record-Breaking Sales Underline China’s New Thirst For Romanée-Conti

US$800,000 “Superlot” Of 55 Bottles Goes To Chinese Bidder In Hong Kong

A bottle of 2007 Romanee-Conti currently costs around 110,390 yuan (US$17,370) in China

A bottle of 2007 Romanee-Conti currently costs around 110,390 yuan (US$17,370) in China

For the last several months, Jing Daily has kept a close eye on the diminishing fortunes seen for lots of formerly dominant Château Lafite at auction and rising interest in the top-tier Burgundy Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC) among China’s wine-drinking (and collecting) elite. As we noted in October, looking at the broader picture of the Greater China wine market, one of the most important shifts over the past six months has been the growing popularity of reds from Burgundy and relative decline of Bordeaux in first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

Though demand for popular Bordeaux remains high among the newly wealthy in second- and third-tier cities, an auction this week in Hong Kong underlined the fact that major Chinese auction buyers are now homing in on the rarest and best Burgundy, a shift that wine critic Jancis Robinson recently said could be “dangerous,” particularly for lovers of top wines like DRC and Domaine Leroy.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, the sale of a rare 55-bottle “superlot” of DRC for over US$800,000 in Hong Kong illustrates the rate at which Chinese collectors have turned to scarcer vintages and turned away from relatively high-production wines from Bordeaux and elsewhere. Via the WSJ:

The ultra rare Romanée-Conti’s spanned 1952 to 2007, working out to nearly $15,000 a bottle, and went to a Chinese collector bidding by phone at Acker Merrall & Condit’s auction.

The firm says it was the most expensive lot this year of any sale, world-wide. Other highlights included 101 vintages of Château Mouton Rothschild back to 1867, which sold for $500,513, and a 57-bottle lot of Château Pétrus from 1959 to 2007, for $250,256.

In a statement, John Kapon, Acker’s chief executive, called 2011 a “triumphant year in Asia.”

The results tell the story of the past 12 months, with Bordeaux and particularly Château Lafite Rothschild losing their perch as Asia’s favorites, to Burgundy’s Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, which now reigns supreme among the region’s top collectors, and regularly achieves the highest prices.

Look for this trend to continue for at least the first half of next year, but soon Chinese collectors may be the most avid buyers of DRC in the world. As this buyer group showed when it turned to Lafite in recent years, when a particular wine gains notoriety in China, there’s never enough of it to go around — with the exception of counterfeits, of course.

In other news this week, one buyer — described only as “Asian” — made waves in Paris, breaking a record for duty-free purchases at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris by dropping over US$65,000 on six bottles of wine. As the BBC points out, the haul consisted of a bottle of Romanee Conti 1995, a Chateau Margaux 2003, two bottles of Chateau Lafitte 1982 and two bottles of Petrus 1980. Knowing the penchant for these exact wines among mainland Chinese buyers in Hong Kong — and the popularity of Paris as a must-visit spot for wealthy Chinese tourist-shoppers, we hate to typecast, but we can make a pretty informed guess at the country from which this anonymous buyer hails.


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