In the third quarter of 2014, the Wine Spectator Auction Index, which tracks sales of commercial wine auctions in the United States, barely budged, inching ahead by 0.2 percent from 337.63 to 338.39 points. The lackluster performance is less an indication of market weakness than a function of reduced volume. Call it the summer doldrums. In the third quarter, only eight auctions comprising 9,541 lots were held, compared with 15 auctions and 14,684 lots in the second quarter of 2014.
$28 million worth of wine went on the block in the U.S. during the third quarter of 2014, 40 percent more than the $20.3 million grossed in the same period last year. However, the average price per lot in the third quarter of 2014 was $2,895, slightly below 2013’s tally of $3,027.
Auction action was particularly slow in Hong Kong during the third quarter. Across two sales, 1,717 lots totaled $8.9 million, with an average price per lot of $5,167, compared with $19.3 million in sales and an average price per lot of $5,772 in the third quarter of 2013. (All figures given in U.S. dollars.)
Some rare and old collectibles emerged at domestic auctions in September. At Acker Merrall & Condit’s Sept. 6 sale, six bottles of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Richebourg 1971 sold for $32,100, against a presale high estimate of $22,000. Wally’s held its first auction of former Cru restaurant owner Roy Welland‘s celebrated collection in New York Sept. 13, where a single bidder snatched up nine lots of Dujac Fils & Père Chambertin 2005 at $26,400 each, exceeding their presale estimates of $10,000 to $15,000, for a total of $237,600.
Like the Welland Collection, of which 100 percent of lots sold, Hart Davis Hart achieved a perfect sell-through rate at its Sept. 19 auction. At $31,070, a case of Armand Rousseau Chambertin 1993 fetched 42 percent above the Auction Index average. A two-bottle lot of Henri Jayer Bourgogne Rosé 1994 climbed above its $180 estimate by 1,222 percent; its $2,390 price likely makes it the most expensive rosé ever purchased.
At Zachys’ New York sale on Sept. 18, a case of Château d’Yquem 1959 sold for $39,200, 167 percent above the Auction Index. The star of the sale was a Lalique bottle of Macallan 50-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch that earned $49,000. The Sotheby’s Sept. 20 auction, stocked with ready-to-drink vintages of Bordeaux and Burgundy, saw two-thirds of its lots sold above their high estimates. Twenty-four half-bottles of Château Haut-Brion 1989 brought $24,500 against a high estimate of $16,000.
Noted Jamie Ritchie, CEO of Sotheby’s Wine, “We see both Tuscan and Californian wines strengthening across the board, particularly labels like Ornellaia and Opus One, which have good reputations and favorable pricing compared to Bordeaux and Burgundy.” Ritchie added that Tuscany and California bottlings are often more approachable when young than wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy. “The market wants to drink wine, not lay it down.”
As a category, Bordeaux was essentially flat, dropping 1 percent from the previous quarter. The 2000 vintage fell 2 percent in value. Exceptions were Château Pétrus, which rose 15 percent to average $4,446 per bottle, and Château La Mission Haut-Brion, which gained 10 percent to average $681. Château Cheval-Blanc was the bright light among the otherwise soft 1995 vintage, rising 13 percent to average $408 per bottle.
Bordeaux 1990 dropped 4 percent. The largest casualty was Château Pichon-Longueville-Lalande, which declined 27 percent to average $120 per bottle. Meanwhile, the 1982 vintage rose 2 percent. Standouts were Château Cos-d'Estournel, which gained 29 percent to average $436 per bottle, and Château Palmer, up 23 percent to average $329.
Blue-chip California registered yet another strong performance in the third quarter, up 9 percent overall. Opus One 1990 climbed an impressive 39 percent to average $255 per bottle. California cult wines generally held constant from last quarter. However, two exceptions were Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon 1999, which rose 26 percent to average $2,023 per bottle, and Harlan Estate 2004, which averaged $624 per bottle, up 23 percent.
Italian estate wines were inconsistent. A 31 percent boost brought Luciano Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis 1989 to average $418 per bottle. Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 1985, with an average of $1,673, fell 15 percent. In an otherwise depressed market for Vintage Port, Fonseca 1977 climbed 109 percent, averaging $163 per bottle.
Rhône reds, tracked separately from the auction index, advanced 10 percent, led by Jean-Louis Chave Ermitage Cathelin 1991, averaging $3,107 per bottle, up 81 percent, and M. Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon 1990, up 79 percent at $438 per bottle.
Burgundies, also tracked separately, rose 2.5 percent. Beating the average were G. Roumier Bonnes Mares 1996, rising 66 percent to $1,678 per bottle, and Armand Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Bèze 1993, which advanced 55 percent to average $2,498 per bottle.
"Every important segment has been strong this quarter,” said John Kapon, Acker’s CEO. “Yet it is smart, diverse demand that is occurring within those segments rather than bubble-like conditions for a specific group of wines, or a single producer or two.” This time, Kapon emphasized, the market growth is shared by Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône, Champagne, Rioja, California and Italy. He observed, “prices are moving up across all of the key segments, but growth will be steady.”
|Wine||Current Auction Price||Percent Change|
|Bouchard Père & Fils Corton-Charlemagne 2004 (1.5L)||$299||+390%|
|Château Haut-Brion Graves 1945||$1,838||+381%|
|Château Lafite Rothschild Pauillac 1985||$2,604||+234%|
|Château d'Yquem Sauternes 1959||$3,267||+167%|
|Château La Mission Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan 2010||$301||-53%|
|Joseph Drouhin Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche 2004||$369||-57%|
|Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva 1979||$400||-60%|
Our Auction Price Database has been updated with third-quarter 2014 results. WineSpectator.com members: Find out how much your wine is worth.