Attracted by an impressive selection of top Italian and French wines, an international crowd of over two hundred wine collectors and buyers filled a room at the Hilton Hotel in Rome set up for Pandolfini's second wine-only auction, which took place on Dec. 3.
"We are very pleased with the outcome, having done better than we expected, especially as we are relative newcomers to wine auctions," said Illaria Ciatti, who is responsible for the Italian auction house's wine department. "Super Tuscans seem to be all the rage. Wine brokers and collectors from abroad find that prices over here are lower than at auctions in the U.S. or Britain."
Pandolfini sold 65 percent of the lots, but following company policy, it would not reveal the total amount brought in by the auction. "Wines such as Sassicaia, Ornellaia, Masseto and Solaia, as well as Montevertine's Pergole Torte, all sold for between 30 percent and 40 percent above the starting price," said Ciatti -- although most sold for less than what they currently retail for in the United States.
Super Tuscan lots included 12 bottles of Sassicaia 1997, which sold for $1,450; 12 bottles of Castello dei Rampolla Vigna d'Alceo 1997, which sold for $1,200; and 11 bottles of Tenuta dell'Ornellaia Masseto, every vintage from 1986 to 1996, which sold for $1,400.
Among the historic lots was a bottle of Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1891, belonging to the private collection of Rome's Enoteca Chiaretti. It went for $14,750 to an anonymous Dutch art-collector.
Jacopo Biondi-Santi, owner of Biondi-Santi winery, who was asked to carry out an appraisal of the 1891 Brunello Riserva, found it in almost perfect condition, having been topped up twice in its lifetime. "The collector value, as well as the enological value, was well worth the price, he said, noting that he still has nine bottles of the 1891 left in his cellar, which he has priced at $37,500 each."
Piedmontese wines, especially from producer Aldo Conterno, fetched good prices. One bottle of Aldo Conterno Barolo Granbussia 1971 brought in $1,900, one magnum of Aldo Conterno Barolo Colonnello 1989 sold for $175, and six bottles of Aldo Conterno Barolo Granbussia 1990 took in $900.
Among the gathering, which consisted largely of brokers, dealers and representatives of anonymous private collectors, there were a few prominent collectors, such as Gianmarco and Letizia Moratti, from an Italian family whose wealth originated in the oil-shipping industry. Moratti bought a considerable number of lots of Italian and French wines.
Among the top Burgundy lots, six bottles of Domaine de la RomanHe-Conti La Tche 1996 fetched $2,800, and two bottles of La Tche 1969 brought in $650.
Bordeaux was represented by some of its best estates, such as a five-bottle combo from the 1990 vintage, featuring one bottle each from chteaus Cheval-Blanc, Haut-Brion, La Fleur-PHtrus, Lynch-Bages and Mouton-Rothschild, which fetched $1,000. A six-bottle lot from the 1989 vintage -- including one bottle each from Cheval-Blanc, Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Mouton-Rothschild, Margaux and PHtrus -- sold for $1,950. And a six-bottle lot from the 1982 vintage -- including Cheval-Blanc, Haut-Brion, Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Margaux and Mouton-Rothschild -- brought in $2, 950.