Despite the uncertain economic climate, sales of fine and rare wine at auction remained relatively stable in 2002. According to year-end figures just released by the major commercial auction houses, worldwide volume totaled $90 million -- a 1 percent drop from 2001. In addition, Internet auction earnings contributed an estimated $17.5 million to the mix.
New York City gained the most in market share, with $53 million in sales, a 24 percent increase over 2001 -- solidifying its position as the foremost auction center in the world. Morrell & Co.'s dramatic turnaround from $3.5 million last year to $11 million in revenues this year, along with Zachys' successful entry into the arena as an independent auctioneer, accounted for the city's windfall. Morrell & Co. also recorded the highest individual sale of the year: nearly $5.2 million for a 23,000-bottle private collection sold in September.
Acker Merrall & Condit, however, emerged as the national auction leader, posting $17.2 million in revenues from its New York, Los Angeles and Internet sales. NYWinesChristie's followed with $15.6 million in revenues. Aulden Cellars—Sotheby's, which only conducted sales in New York this year, came in third overall in the United States, but topped Manhattan with a tally of $13.3 million. Winebid.com led on the Web, with a reported $14.2 million in sales.
In contrast to the U.S. markets, sales in London, once the capital of the wine-auction world, dropped 21 percent from 2001 to $20.7 million this year. Christie's reported $12.4 million in U.K. sales compared to Sotheby's $8.3 million. Internationally, Christie's regained its position as top-grossing wine auctioneer (which it last held in 2000), with $33 million in worldwide sales.
This year's most expensive wine lot was a case of Château Mouton-Rothschild 1945 that fetched $87,000 at Zachys. Among the other highlights of the year, a dozen bottles of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 1978 commanded $69,000 at NYWinesChristie's, and 12 bottles of Château Latour-à-Pomerol 1961 brought in $54,000 at Aulden Cellars—Sotheby's.
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Read highlights of auction news from the past year: