Margaux sale: why NY?

Why has Château Margaux chosen to hold its ex-cellar sale in New York rather than Hong Kong like its fellow firsts?

Chateau Margaux_Credit Francois Poincet (2)The first growth has announced it will be offering an ex-cellar collection of its wines spanning 110 years in New York this autumn through Sotheby’s. the 239 lots are expected to generate upwards of US$1 million.

Margaux will be the last of the five first growths to hold an ex-cellar sale but the first not to hold it in Hong Kong.

Lafite arguably began the trend in 2010 when its collection sold for HK$65m – far above its HK$20m estimate. Latour, via Christie’s, tried the same trick the following year in Hong Kong and while it was successful the general feeling was that it had fallen a little short of expectation.

Haut-Brion held a sale in 2013, again through Sotheby’s, that made US$12m but only Mouton Rothschild’s Chinese New Year sale has come close to matching Lafite’s success with a HK$32m haul in January.

Yet Margaux is heading stateside for its sale in what has been described as a “mutual decision” by the estate and Sotheby’s.

Jamie Ritchie, Sotheby’s head of wine for Asia and the Americas, told the drinks business: “The decision to hold the sale in New York was a mutual decision, based on the strength of both the North and South American markets and that Asian buyers also buy from our New York sales.”

Part of the answer is also that, despite throwing itself into the Asian market in recent years, Margaux has always been extremely popular in the US but it is also true that as a market America has been steadily growing for the past couple of years.

In 2014, when Sotheby’s said the US auction market was beginning to “reassert” itself, overall sales in the US outpaced Asia and put it, once more, in pole position as the world’s biggest auction market.

Last year Sotheby’s sales in the US hit US$15.4m, lower than London and Hong Kong but showing by far the biggest increase on 2013 – a 23% rise.

And results this year have been more encouraging still, the house having already passed the US$10m mark in terms of sales in the first half of 2015 the bulk of that coming from the sale in May of this year when the auction featuring the “Don Stott Cellar” made over US$8m – which the house hailed its largest New York sale for 15 years.

Some leading auctioneers told db this February that Asia was beginning to cool somewhat and the consensus now is that selling in Hong Kong no longer guarantees the premium it once did although this feeling has been around or some time, Bonhams’ fine wine director, Richard Harvey MW, noting there was “too much” wine in the Hong Kong market back in 2011.

That said, Ritchie did tell db last September that Asia still had “the edge” on the US in the long-run.

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