At its fall auction this past weekend, Zachys brought in a resounding total of $9.76 million--the highest sum ever generated by a single-owner cellar belonging to an American collector and the third-highest sale total in recent history.
More than 2,400 lots comprising 17,000 bottles went on the block in New York on Oct. 28 and 29, and a full 93 percent of the offerings sold. A glittering array of 19th- and 20th-century treasures brought staggering prices, occasionally exceeding their average prices in the second-quarter 2005 Wine Spectator Auction Index by more than 200 percent.
Although the seller remained anonymous, the cellar boasted all the attributes serious collectors seek: Excellent condition, pristine provenance and considerable depth and breadth. Some of the greatest pre-phylloxera Bordeaux were on offer, including 1865 Château Lafite Rothschild and 1865 Château Latour. There were 27 vintages of Château d'Yquem from 1811 to 1997 and ultrarare bottlings from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti dating back to 1929. A wide range of grand and premier cru red Burgundies from Leroy, Jayer and de Vogüé were buttressed by superb white Burgundies from Ramonet, Leflaive and Coche-Dury.
The Bordeaux classics were in particularly strong demand. A magnum of Château Lafleur 1947 brought $53,100 (up 220 percent from its Auction Index average) and a magnum of Château Pétrus 1921 sold for $29,500 (up 218 percent). Three bottles of Château Latour 1945 fetched $20,060 (up 248 percent).
Rhône reds were equally sought after, led by a two-bottle lot of Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Landonne 1985 that was snapped up for $5,664 (up 200 percent). Large-format Burgundies from DRC sparked bidding wars. A jeroboam of La Tâche 1962 commanded $44,840 (up 186 percent) and a magnum of Romaneé-Conti 1966 sold for $22,420 (up 124 percent).
Auctioneer Fritz Hatton made light of the situation, quipping, "Walk into an Impressionist sale, and this will seem like a breeze."
Given the heated atmosphere, many collectors in attendance were frustrated by their inability to snare a winning bid. An army of high-net-worth collectors, for whom price was seemingly no object, had descended on the salesroom with similar shopping lists, and the scene quickly devolved into a battle of the bank accounts. This sale attracted some of the biggest collectors in the country (all of whom chose to remain anonymous), and they happened to have equally deep pockets. One agent, bidding for a highly affluent client, consistently held his paddle aloft until the competition withered.
Under the circumstances, bargains were virtually nonexistent. However, a bottle of Lafite 1864 was a relatively good value at $10,030 (down 61 percent), as were two bottles of Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino Reserva Speciale 1961 at $1,298 (down 34 percent).
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