Sell-Out Hong Kong Auction Shows Burgundy Still King In China

Sale of Henry Tang’s Burgundy Collection Achieves HK$48 Million

Auctioneer David Elswood at the sale. Photo credit: Christie’s Images Ltd 2013

Although serious wine collectors in Hong Kong are reportedly diversifying their buying habits — a trend reflected in an upcoming Acker Merrall & Condit sale featuring (gasp) American wines — Burgundy’s dominance at the top-end of the market remains rock solid. Even as the powerhouse Hong Kong market lost some steam last summer, taking in a relatively paltry US$35 million in the second quarter of 2012 (compared to nearly $62 million in the same period of 2011), the city saw a rebound in the second half of the year. Ultimately, Hong Kong retained its crown as the world’s most profitable wine auction market last year with total sales of $130.3 million, well above New York ($56.1 million) and London ($29.3 million).

With all eyes back on what collectors are buying in Hong Kong in 2013, Christie’s auction of a portion of local businessman (and former chief secretary) Henry Tang’s prized Burgundy collection was perhaps the most talked-about sale of the season. Powered by fast and furious bidding, the sale — which featured top-tier lots of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC), Armand Rousseau, Ponsot, Leroy and Mugnier — went 100 percent sold by lot and value, taking in a grand total of HK$48 million (US$6.2 million).

Unsurprisingly, DRC — favored by wealthy Chinese drinkers and collectors for the past two years — dominated at the Henry Tang auction, with one lot of six DRC magnums going for HK$1.2 million (US$154,606).

Hong Kong wine collectors are broadening their horizons

As Christie’s sees it, the sale was an opportunity to gauge local collectors’ interest in Burgundy producers that often fly under the radar and remain favorites of seasoned collectors and wine aficionados. As Simon Tam, Christie’s head of wine in China, put it, “By bringing these lesser-known names into the market’s radar, the auction helped grow a strong current of the discovery of hidden gems. We look forward to staging more wine sales that share such feature, to broaden the collectors’ vision and to create a nurturing atmosphere for the growth of up-and-coming wine producers.” While the diverse interest of buyers at the sale — many of whom were no doubt heartened by top-notch provenance and Tang’s stamp of approval — will definitely buoy auction houses, it won’t do anything to assuage the fears of Burgundy lovers worldwide that Chinese demand will hit the price tags of their favorite tipples.

Christie’s looked to further allay fears of counterfeits by including Prooftag Bubble Seals — which Chateau Lafite famously adopted last year — on every bottle at the auction. However, Christie’s did withdraw one lot, owing to a challenge to the authenticity of a bottle of 1971 DRC La Tâche.


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