For the first time ever, Sotheby's wine department has reported a higher aggregate total than Christie's. Sotheby's 1999 worldwide wine auction sales equaled $52.3 million, compared to $51.5 million for Christie's -- a difference of only 1.6 percent.
Christie's, historically the front-runner in the fine wine field, maintained its traditional lead in the United Kingdom with $22.7 million in sales, an increase of 6 percent over 1998. Sotheby's London sales totaled $15 million, up 11.5 percent.
But in the United States, thanks to a phenomenal 227 percent rise in sales (due largely to the record $14.4 million "Millennium Sale" in New York), Sotheby's emerged as the clear winner.
Sotheby's grossed $37.3 million in the United States, including the six New York auctions conducted with former retail partner Sherry-Lehmann, which totaled $29.5 million. Zachys-Christie's (Scarsdale, N.Y., wine retailer Zachys partners with Christie's in all its U.S. sales) recorded $22.1 million in overall U.S. revenues.
For the first time since New York legalized wine auctions, five years ago, it overtook London in aggregate sales. With year-end results still to come from Acker Merrall & Condit and Phillips International Auctioneers, New York's combined auction take -- from Morrell & Co., Zachys-Christie's and Sherry-Lehmann with Sotheby's -- already exceeds $53 million, compared to London's $37 million. In 1994, New York auctioned just under $11 million worth of wine.
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