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Strong returns at latest auctions

Both Bonhams and Sotheby’s conducted fine wine auctions at the end of March and beginning of April in London and Hong Kong respectively and both yielded strong returns.

The Bonhams auction is interesting for the disparity in prices that Château Lafite is showing between vintages.

Half a case of 1982 was the biggest seller at £16,100, followed by a case of 2003 at £11,500. However, 12 bottles of 1990, a year that received much better overall scores than 2003, went for only £8,970, narrowly beating a single bottle of 1945 Mouton Rothschild at £8,280.

The puzzle surrounding the lack of interest in 1990 has previously been observed by auctioneers and the drinks business.

As for the Hong Kong auction on 2-3 April, which featured the largest collection of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and white Burgundy ever sold on the island, the sales were impressive and would appear to confirm that Chinese buyers are indeed prepared to pay serious money for the region’s very best wines.

With red DRC going back to the 1940s and whites to the 1960s, competition for the 3,000 bottles on offer was clearly fierce.

Notable highlights were a case of Romanée-Conti 1990 which fell just below its high estimate at HK$1,815,000. The 2005s fared well: a half case of Echézaux cruised past its $38,000 high estimate to finish on $50,820 and three bottles of Romanée-Conti 2005 settled at $459,800 (high estimate $380,000).

The hammer came down on the case of La Tâche 1942 (high estimate $380,000) at $363,000 but the single bottle made an extra $10,000 on its top estimate, selling for $38,720.

The white DRC, which was all Montrachet, also did well. Three bottles of 2005 sold for $60,500, three bottles of 2003 for $108,900 (high estimate $70,000), a case of 1990 for $484,000 and single bottle of 1967 for $26,620.

After the main event that was the DRC sale, more Burgundies and the usual suspects from the claret line-up dominated the rest of the two sessions. The total amount raised at the auction was $96,754,746.

Another auction held on 1 April also in Hong Kong – the seventh part of a sale from “The Classic Cellar from a Great American Collector” – raised $39,600,880.

Rupert Millar, 07.04.2011

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