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Zachys Is Back With $3.65 Million Solo Auction

Scarsdale retailer sees stunning 97 percent sold rate in sale full of top Bordeaux and Burgundies.

Peter D. Meltzer
Posted: October 28, 2002

Zachys scored a major coup with its first solo foray into the auction arena, a vibrant two-day event staged on Oct. 25 and 26 at Daniel in Manhattan. The Scarsdale, N.Y.—based retailer, which had been partners with Christie's auction house for more than six years, surpassed presale projections with a $3.65 million gross (inclusive of the 16 percent buyer's premium) and an exceptional 97 percent sold rate.

A supercharged crowd -- consisting of regular auction-goers and first-time buyers -- sent prices soaring for choice clarets and Burgundies, many of which exceeded their averages in the Wine Spectator Auction Index for the third quarter of 2002 by more than 50 percent. Demand was equally intense for rare California labels and Italian estate bottlings. Yet good values lurked in the lower echelons of the 1,569-lot list, due to conservative estimates and reasonable reserves.

The top-selling lot, a pristine case of the celebrated Château Mouton-Rothschild 1945, commanded $87,000, a 58 percent increase from its auction index average. Consigned by Bordeaux négociant Mähler-Besse, the wine had never been moved from the firm's cellars since being acquired some 55 years ago. Ken Masik, the veteran Florida collector who snared the '45 Mouton, had previously purchased a case of the same vintage for $63,000 at a Zachys-Christie's auction in 1996. "This was worth the extra bucks," he quipped, referring to the exemplary provenance of the lot.

For much the same reason, a six-bottle lot of Château Ducru-Beaucaillou 1961 consigned directly by the château sailed over estimate to fetch $4,872, up 185 percent.

Scarcity was another factor influencing the bidding. David Page, a Florida collector who purchased six magnums of Château d'Yquem 1975 for a hefty $7,192, up 67 percent, justified his purchase by saying, "You just never see them at auction." The same rationale applied to two three-bottle lots of the benchmark Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Georges de Latour Private Reserve 1951, each of which fetched $4,408, up 56 percent.

New Jersey collector Charles Klatskin anted up $18,650 for a case of Château Palmer 1945 from the Mähler-Besse collection, up 52 percent, and then made a quick purchase to help square the difference. He snapped up six magnums of DRC Romanée-Conti 1995 for just $22,040, down 31 percent. "At heart, I'm a value buyer who's willing to pay a premium for provenance," he said.

Of the same school was the anonymous bidder who snared three double-magnums of Château Pétrus 1982 for $18,560, down 54 percent.

Pétrus prices were among the few soft spots in the sale, possibly because of the large quantities released into the marketplace at the Morrell & Co. auction in late September. Château Le Pin also tended to trade at the low end of its estimates, with lots from 1985, 1988 and 1991 failing to find buyers altogether.

Although the auction's average price per lot was a lofty $2,325, the sale contained numerous cases estimated at more accessible prices, from $300 to $500. "We want to attract collectors at all price points," insisted Jeff Zacharia, Zachys' president. Low-end bargains included a dozen bottles of Château Calon-Ségur 1985 at $409, down 35 percent, and a case of Château Clerc Milon 1985 at $348, down 33 percent.

One savvy bidder bought a case of Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1984 from the Scandia restaurant collection for $521, below the low estimate. A dozen bottles of Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon 1984 from the same consignment sold for $812, down 41 percent.

But there were no discounts for cult wine buyers. Three bottles of Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 brought in $5,800, up 73 percent, due to heated bidding.

Rarities like Henri Jayer Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux 1997 also incited frenzied paddle politics as determined bidders on the floor, the telephone and in the order book propelled the case price to $23,200, up 97 percent. Keeping it all moving at a comfortable clip were seasoned auctioneers Fritz Hatton and Ursula Hermacinski (both formerly of Christie's), who energized the salesroom with their wit and freewheeling style.

Some trade buyers and bottom-fishers in attendance were dismayed by the elevated prices. They kept their paddles firmly in their laps, hoping that once Zachys' novelty factor wore off, the excitement -- and the bids -- would diminish.

But a confident Jeff Zacharia claimed, "We've just begun to reach the deep pool of collectors who are out there. Our next sale should be even better."

Zachys' Highlights

Wine Quantity Price Percent Change
Antinori Solaia 1985 12 bottles $9,280 145%
Calon-Ségur 1985 12 bottles $406 -35%
DRC Romanée-Conti 1990 6 magnums $69,600 -1%
Ducru-Beaucaillou 1961 6 bottles $4,872 185%
J.L. Chave Hermitage Cuvée Cathelin 1990 12 bottles $20,880 41%
Mouton-Rothschild 1945 12 bottles $87,000 58%
Palmer 1961 12 bottles $24,360 73%
Pétrus 1989 3 double-magnums $15,080 -17%
Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Cask 23 1985 6 bottles $4,640 169%
Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port 1945 12 bottles $9,860 26%

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Full-access subscribers can view recent auction results and analysis, upcoming events and the Wine Spectator Auction Index in the Collecting section of our site.

Read more about Zachy's and Christie's:

  • Oct. 11, 2002
    Zachy's Goes Solo With Premier Manhattan Wine Auction

  • May 10, 2002
    Zachy's Resumes New York Wine Auctions

  • Jan. 3, 2002
    Christie's Names New Retail Partner for New York Auctions

  • Dec. 14, 2001
    Christie's Auction House Splits With Zachys
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