Wine auctions prove a complex blend as Hong Kong follows global sales dip

Hong Kong has lost crown to US, but top bottles still fetch HK$492,000

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 January, 2014, 5:08am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 January, 2014, 9:34am

The wine auction season opened to mixed results at the weekend following Hong Kong's loss of top spot at the auction table last year.

Wine merchant Acker Merrall and Condit raised HK$38 million at auctions on Friday and Saturday, lower than its HK$40 million estimate. Last year the company took in HK$52 million at its January auction.

Sotheby's auction on Saturday saw bidders fork out HK$29.4 million, beating the presale estimate of HK$25 million. Almost three-quarters of the lots sold above their estimate.

The mixed results came after Wine Spectator reported worldwide auction sales fell 13 per cent to US$340 million last year, compared with US$389 million in 2012. Sales in the United States dropped from US$134 million to US$125 million, while in Hong Kong sales went from US$155 million to US$115 million, meaning that Hong Kong fell behind the US for the first time since taking the top spot in 2010.

Acker CEO John Kapon said there were fewer large collections last year.

The top lot at its auction at the weekend was eight bottles of 1985 Montrachet, which went for HK$492,000, exceeding the estimate of HK$380,000.

Kapon said Burgundy would continue to dominate the market. "In 2013, Bordeaux was 40 per cent of our dollars and 35 per cent of our bottles sold, while Burgundy was 35 per cent of dollars and 15 per cent of bottles, meaning people are paying more for Burgundy," he said.

Hong Kong remained Acker's top market last year, although sales were down 25 per cent.

Sotheby's top lot on Saturday was whisky. A Macallan 6-litre "M" Decanter by Lalique that fetched HK$4.9 million set a new record for a single malt.

Two 12-bottle lots of Chateau Petrus and Chateau Lafite followed. Both 1982 vintages, they sold below their estimates.

Four lots of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti landed in the top 10 list, all shattering high estimates. Three bottles of its 1978 vintage fetched HK$367,500.

Sotheby's first wine ranking showed Domaine de la Romanee-Conti to be the top winemaker last year, fetching US$7.2 million in its auctions and retail sales worldwide.

Lafite and Petrus followed with sales of US$5.2 million and US$4.6 million.