More players keen to dip their fingers in HK's fine-wine well

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 April, 2008, 12:00am

US-based wine merchants Zachys and Hart Davis Hart and major auction houses are exploring the possibility of holding fine-wine auctions in Hong Kong, a source familiar with the discussions said.

Much will depend on last night's auction by Bonhams, the first in Hong Kong in a decade following the government's scrapping of the 40 per cent duty on wine two months ago.

The inaugural Hong Kong auction by US wine merchant Acker Merrall & Condit on May 31 would also help determine which format was more suited to the Hong Kong and Asian markets, the source said.

Auction houses Christie's and Sotheby's, which both have a strong presence in Hong Kong through their fine art and jewellery auctions, have previously expressed interest in holding wine sales here.

In addition, four wine-related companies were setting up shop in Hong Kong, InvestHK director general Mike Rowse said. InvestHK helped Bonhams set up an office here.

The Bonhams sale featured 246 lots with an estimated value of US$1.5 million. The Acker Merrall & Condit auction would have almost four times the number of lots with an estimated value of over US$6 million.

Bidding was brisk last night as collectors and buyers snapped up lot after lot, some for as much as double the high estimate. Mr Rowse unsuccessfully bid HK$2,000 on six bottles of 1989 Chateau Beychevelle. The lot sold for HK$5,500.

Los Angeles-based Frank Martell, the international director of fine and rare wines at Bonhams, said he believed everything about last night's auction, including the lots, the prices and the bidders, was done correctly.

Fine-wine auctions worldwide last year totalled about US$300 million.