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Bordeaux slump hits auction figures

The world’s five biggest auction houses have reported a 25% slump during the first half of 2012 as investors adopted a cautious approach to the big names and Chinese buyers shifted their focus towards Burgundy.

Despite upbeat reports from many houses, Bloomberg reported that the big five – Acker Merrall & Condit, Zachys, Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Hart Davis Hart – saw wine sales slip to £160 million during the first six months of 2012.

The decline was driven by Lafite, which has continued to see prices fall, with top vintages such as 2000 and 2005 down by more than 25% from their mid-2011 peak.

Instead, buyers were reported to be turning their attention away from first growth Bordeaux towards estates lower down the hierarchy, less highly acclaimed vintages or – as previously reported in the drinks business – alternative fine wine regions, especially Burgundy, the Rhône and California.

Heading the league table for the first half of the year was Acker, with $46.5m in sales, thanks to high profile events such as a major Domaine de la Romanée Conti auction in Hong Kong at the end of May.

Indeed, Hong Kong continued to dominate the global auction market, representing 47% of sales across the top five houses. By contrast the US accounted for 35% and Europe a more modest 18% of sales.

The $160m six month total was considerably less than the $220m raised during the same period last year, with the full year figures for 2012 set to fall well short of the record-breaking $405m seen in 2011.

Nevertheless, John Kapon, CEO of Acker, presented an optimistic outlook for the rest of the year, observing: “The rarest lots continue to attract feverish demand, as the sale’s top lots showed, and rightfully so.

“People continue to want the best, and that is what we will continue to give them in an exciting Fall season with eight live auctions already scheduled for New York, Chicago and Hong Kong combined.”


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