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Recent Wine Auctions Show Why Hart Davis Hart Is Top U.S. House

Focused on the American market, the 2015 domestic sales leader hosted a blockbuster Burgundy sale in April

Peter D. Meltzer
Posted: May 19, 2016

Hart Davis Hart (HDH) is on a hot streak this year, following up the largest commercial Burgundy auction by total sales in April with a $5.9 million–grossing wine auction the following month on May 13 and 14. The Chicago-based wine-auction house has a 100 percent sell-through rate for the 6,700 lots it has offered so far in 2016. Last year, the firm brought in $41.5 million in total sales, surpassing all other U.S. auctioneers.

Because HDH doesn’t sell in Hong Kong, a major market for rivals like Acker Merrall & Condit, its success is sometimes overlooked. But the house has succeeded by focusing on specific goals—selling in the U.S. and stressing blue-chip collectibles like Bordeaux and Burgundy.

At the May auction, held at the Grand Award–winning Tru restaurant, more than 45 percent of the 2,555 lots sold for above their presale estimates. Champagne did particularly well, with 56 lots bringing in $119,000.

Less than a month earlier, the “Celebration of Burgundy” auction on April 1 and 2 brought together more than 2,000 lots from 159 different domaines, spanning vintages back to 1961. The sale brought in $5.6 million, just under the presale estimate of $5.7 million. Currently, most auction houses report that the dollar value of fine Burgundies being sold now exceeds that of classified Bordeauxs, the traditional auction leader.

Events like the April sale are a perfect example of how HDH operates. The auction required long-term planning and the cultivation of close relationships with collectors. Paul Hart, HDH’s CEO, says he assembled roughly 50 consignments to put together the sale.

“We work with most of our sellers over the years, discussing the market and their collections,” said Hart. “Many consignments were long planned. There were so many high-quality collections that we were confident the bidders would come, and they did.”

The sale offered 36 vintages alone from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, which together brought in $1.8 million against a high estimate of $1.9 million. The top lot was a case of DRC La Tâche 1990, which sold for $53,775 against a high estimate of $48,000.

“It was the largest commercial Burgundy auction in history [by total sales], breaking the previous record, also set by us, by $1 million,” said Hart. “There is something about the passionate nature of Burgundy collectors that is unique.”

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