153-year-old cognac fetches 1m yuan in Shanghai

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 September, 2011, 12:00am


A bottle of 153-year-old cognac was auctioned for 1 million yuan (HK$1.2 million) in Shanghai yesterday, believed to be a record price for the French spirit in an unadorned bottle.

Winning bidder Maggie Vong, from Hong Kong, said she was delighted to have won the bidding, which started at 388,000 yuan. Vintage cognac has brought a higher price - but only when sold in an elaborate jewelled bottle.

Croizet Cognac's Cuvee Leonie was one of 16 items auctioned at an invitation-only event at Shook! restaurant, on the top floor of the Swatch Art Peace Hotel on the Bund.

'I was very keen to get hold of this exclusive bottle,' Vong said. 'But setting a precedent also pushed me on. I am very happy to have broken a world record.'

The exclusive event is understood to be the first cognac-only auction to be held on the mainland.

Jason Gillott, Croizet's head of international marketing, said: 'There has been intense interest in this sale. People have been flying in from all over the world.'

The headline cognac was produced from the grape harvest of 1858 - before a blight of phyloxera wiped out most French vines in 1875, devastating the European wine industry.

The rare spirit was part of a dowry given in 1892 to Leonie Croizet - great granddaughter of Leon Croizet, who founded the firm in 1805 - by her father. It has remained in the company's vaults ever since.

The highest price previously paid for a cognac was US$2 million for the Henri IV Dudognon Heritage, sold in 2008. However, the bottle holding the 100-year-old brandy had been specially encrusted with diamonds and inlaid with 24-carat gold, causing some to wonder if the spirit or container was more valuable.

A 1788 Vieux Cognac in its original bottle fetched Euro25,000 (HK$263,000) in Paris in 2009.

Gillott said the company had made a conscious decision to keep the Cuvee Leonie in its original bottle.

Ahead of the event, Gillott predicted that the bottle could go for more than 1 million yuan.

The astronomical price earned by the headline item, and the fact Croizet chose to hold the auction in Shanghai, shows the incredible buying power of China's nouveaux rich, and the impact they are having on prices of luxury goods worldwide.

But it was not all plain sailing. Before the main item was offered, almost half of the lots had failed to reach their reserve prices.