Thirty-nine lots of Château d'Yquem, consigned directly from the estate by president Count Alexandre de Lur Saluces, brought $137,124 (inclusive of the 17 percent buyer's premium) at Zachys' May 13 auction in New York. The total exceeded the pre-sale high estimate by a dramatic 74 percent.
The appeal of the consignment lay in the fact that none of the bottles on offer had been moved from Yquem's cellars since release. "Pristine provenance doesn't get better than this," said auctioneer Ursula Hermacinski, as she fielded a bevy of bids from the floor, the telephone and the order book.
"I'm sad to see these bottles leave Château d'Yquem," said Lur Saluces, who was in attendance at the sale and who is himself leaving the estate he has run for 35 years. "But I'm glad to see that they are so highly valued by collectors."
Winning bids topped the wines' average prices in the first quarter 2004 Wine Spectator Auction Index by a substantial margin. A single bottle of Yquem 1934 brought $5,148 -- up 550 percent from its auction index average -- and a bottle of 1899 commanded $5,265, up 490 percent. A bottle of 1949 fetched $3,519, up 300 percent, and a case of 1990 was a relative bargain at $3,276, up a mere 2 percent).
Yquem clearly held center stage at this particular Zachys auction. A separate consignment consisting of 14 imperials and one jeroboam of Yquem from 1982 through 1997 brought $49,140, just below the top estimate. In the sale's second session, a single bottle of Yquem 1816 sold for $11,115, up 31 percent from its auction index average.
While demand for Yquem from private collections was strong, the bids were nowhere near as high as for the ex-château offerings. Put another way, the price of provenance was anywhere from 50 to 100 percent.