Sotheby’s New York sold the collection of financier and philanthropist Don Stott for $8,412,626 on May 8 and 9, the highest-grossing wine auction worldwide of 2015 thus far. Surpassing its high estimate of $6.2 million, with 50 percent of lots exceeding individual high estimates, the sale affirmed the continued importance of high-end Burgundy in today’s auction world.
Stott spent a career on Wall Street, largely at Wagner Stott Mercator LLC, a New York Stock Exchange specialist firm he and his team sold to Bear Sterns for more than $625 million a decade ago. Stott began collecting Burgundy after a trip there in 1963, long before it became such a sought-after category in the secondary market. His collection of older vintages, especially in case quantities, “accounts for the success of the sale,” Stott told Wine Spectator. “I wasn’t altogether surprised by the results.”
The collector first became interested in wine while a student at Princeton, and some early mentors—Mario Ricci, then head sommelier at Wine Spectator Grand Award–winning '21' Club, and family friend Olivier LeBas—turned him on to collectible bottles. Ricci “convinced me to buy case lots of 1961 Bordeaux,” Stott said, and LeBas “squired me through Burgundy in 1963.”
“If you remember the names de Vogüé and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, you’ll be in good stead, young man,” Stott recalled LeBas telling him at the time.
Bidding looked healthy from the auction’s onset. Lot No. 1, a case of Domaine Georges Roumier Bourgogne Rouge 2005, estimated at $700 to $1,000, sold for $1,348. (All figures are inclusive of the 22.5 percent buyer’s premium.) Two bottles of Domaine Georges Roumier Clos de Vougeot 1978 brought $4,900, over a high estimate of $1,500, while six bottles of Domaine Georges Roumier Chambolles Musigny Les Amoureuses 1995 sold for nearly $2,000 above the $9,800 high estimate.
One anonymous absentee bidder in Asia won both a case of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Montrachet 1973, for $58,188, and three bottles of DRC Vosne-Romanée les Gaudichots 1929 (a property since absorbed into La Tâche) for $52,063, well above the $20,000 high estimate—and a 136 percent gain over the last time the wine sold at auction, at Christie’s in 2004 for $7,334 per bottle.
Other sale highlights included 10 bottles of Domaine Armand Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Bèze 1985 at $33,6878; two bottles of Marquis d’Angerville Volnay Clos des Ducs 1934 at $9,800 (over a high estimate of $1,500); and a magnum of Comte Georges de Vogüé Musigny Cuvée Vieilles Vignes 1946, which surpassed its high estimate of $8,500 to bring $19,600.
This single-cellar auction follows Wally’s sale of Roy Welland’s collection last fall, which generated $12.2 million between two installments, and Acker Merrall & Condit’s $4.4 million auction of the collection of Martine Saunier, in January. The demand for single cellars—and for trustworthy collectors—underscores the growing importance of provenance in the auction market.
“If I had been able to achieve the same results during my career on Wall Street, I would have been in great shape,” quipped Stott.
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