It was my first wine auction in the Far East. Last Saturday, I watched a ballroom full of bidders during the Acker Merrall & Condit sale at the Island Shangri-La Hotel in Hong Kong buy slightly more than 1,100 lots of fine wine that totaled about $6.4 million (U.S.).
A case of 1990 La Tâche sold for about $74,462, and three magnums of 2005 Romanée-Conti went for the same price. A jeroboam of 1985 Romanée-Conti sold for about $55,846.
The prices were pretty mind-blowing. There were cases upon cases of other rare bottles sold, and they were not just Burgundy. Some of the other impressive lots included a case of 1989 Pétrus for about $43,436 and a case of 1989 Lafleur which fetched $27,923.
You get the idea. The auction house says it sold 100 percent of the lots on offer. And it seems that everything was selling for a premium.
It's obvious what bidders—a large percentage of which were from mainland China—really wanted. It's mostly three names: Lafite, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Pétrus. Le Pin and Lafleur are also very popular, with a growing interest in small-production, highly collectible Burgundies from names such as Armand Rousseau, G. Roumier and Domaine Ponsot.
This isn't to say that other premium wines from France, Italy, Oz, Spain or California don't sell. But the big bidders, or whales as they are often called in the business, want the trophy labels mentioned above, and they seem willing to pay just about anything for them.
I went to a pre-auction tasting the evening before the sale, and was amused to see that the one wine from DRC, a 1993 Richebourg, was the first bottle emptied. People were literally fighting to get a tablespoon of the stuff. I honestly thought that the 2004 Marcassin Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Three Sisters Vineyard served at the table next door was superior. But few of the few hundred people at the tasting touched it. What a refined, precise and beautiful red. I scored it 96 points, non-blind.
Wine auctions in Hong Kong this year are expected to total close to $65 million according to Gil Schwarz, an executive consultant with Acker. It's a little less than half what wine auctions do in the U.S. But I think that HK may soon eclipse New York as the wine auction capital of the world.
Matt Scott — Honolulu HI — September 22, 2009 1:02pm ET
David A Zajac — Akron, OH — September 22, 2009 1:48pm ET
Chris A Elerick — Orlando, FL — September 22, 2009 1:51pm ET
Timothy Moore — Tinley Park — September 22, 2009 6:57pm ET
Merlin — Zurich, Switzerland — September 23, 2009 12:41pm ET
Jamie Sherman — Sacramento — September 23, 2009 3:52pm ET
Caspar — Wiltshire, UK — September 24, 2009 4:34am ET
Martin Palmer — Hong Kong — September 29, 2009 6:28am ET
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions