This past weekend, at its first wine sale of the 2006 season, auction house Acker Merrall & Condit broke new ground with a record total of $10.64 million--the highest sum ever generated by a single-owner cellar belonging to an American and the third-highest gross total in recent memory. All prices are inclusive of the 18.5 percent buyer's premium.
The 1,834-lot auction, conducted at Manhattan's Cru restaurant, was 95 percent sold. The total for the event beats out Zachy's $9.76 million single-owner sale last fall, which was the previous record for a single-owner American cellar. Norwegian businessman Christen Sveaas still holds the single-seller records with a $14.4 million cellar sold at Sherry-Lehmann with Sotheby's in 1999 and another worth $11.3 million sold at Christie's London in 1997.
The Acker Merrall consignor, a high-net-worth West Coast collector known for his impeccable taste and rigorous standards of selection, chose to remain anonymous. Bidding on the rarified lots, however, was very public and very aggressive. Six magnums of DRC Romanée Conti 1971, for example, sold for a record price of $136,275, which is 37 percent above the wine's average price in the Wine Spectator second-half 2005 Auction Index. Private wine consultants, restaurateurs and seasoned collectors all joined the fray, buttressed by telephone bidders and a strong order book.
A total of six lots surpassed the magic $100,000 mark, including a case of DRC Romanée-Conti 1962 at $118,500 (up 12 percent from the Auction Index average); a case of Château Latour à Pomerol 1961, also at $118,500 (up 17 percent); and six magnums of DRC Romanée-Conti 1978 at $112,575 (down 4 percent). A case of Armand Rousseau Chambertin 1962 sold for a staggering $71,100 (up 236 percent) and a single magnum of DRC Romanée-Conti 1929-thought to be the first magnum of the wine to go on the block in more than a decade-sold for a record $59,250.
The sale's average price per lot hovered near $6,000. Under the circumstances, bargains were hard to come by, unless you find the $94,800 price tag (down 41 percent) for six magnums of Château Cheval-Blanc to be a steal.
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