Chinese businesswoman secures top burgundy cask at charity auction

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 November, 2013, 3:19am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 November, 2013, 3:19am

A Chinese woman has won the bidding for a coveted barrel of burgundy wine at a Christie's-run charity auction in France, paying €131,000 (HK$1.4 million) for her cask.

It was the first time a Chinese buyer came away with the top item at the annual auction for the Hospices de Beaune charity, where around 443 wines went under the hammer. The proceeds from the auction are distributed among various charities.

Yan Hongcao, the successful bidder who won the 456 litres of Meursault-Genevrieres, is from Yunnan and owns a chain of shops, jade mines and tea plantations.

Michael Ganne, a representative from Christie's, which has run the auction since 2005, said a significant number of Asians had attended the event and that it generated "a lot of interest, with a small volume of vintage" available.

During the last three years, wine buyers, particularly from Asia, have focused more on burgundy.

Christie's had courted Asian bidders with tastings in Singapore, Hong Kong and Beijing. Bidders from Asia bought 9.5 per cent of the auction, said the London-based auction house. Last year their purchases represented 12 per cent of its value.

France is a major exporter of wine to China, which has become a key, fast-growing market. Wine consumption in China more than doubled in the four years to 2011, and is set to rise another 40 per cent by 2016, according to fair organiser Vinexpo.

Investors have balked at ever-higher auction prices for Chateau Lafite-Rothschild and other trophy clarets, and they've also been put off by Bordeaux's ambitiously priced en primeur campaigns, wine dealers said. As a result, Burgundy's share of the total fine wine trade in July this year was five times bigger than it was in July 2010, IG Wines said.

Barrels of the Grand Cru red wine Clos de la Roche and the white Batard-Montrachet dominated the Hospices sale, taking respectively five and four of the auction's top 10 prices.

A European private buyer paid a top price of €70,620 for a barrel of Clos de la Roche, Cuvee Kritter, while the Maison Lucien Lemoine was prepared to give an upper-estimate €65,270 for Batard's Cuvee dames de Flandres.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg