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Asia enjoying a ‘Mouton moment’

After a triumphant Mouton Rothschild sale in Hong Kong, Serena Sutcliffe MW spoke to the drinks business about the outlook for Bordeaux in Asia.

Serena Sutcliffe MW (credit: World Gourmet Summit)
Serena Sutcliffe MW (credit: World Gourmet Summit)

“We were thrilled. It went better than anyone thought and was really exciting from start to finish,” said the head of Sotheby’s international wine department. “I think it’s a bit of a Mouton moment that’s been building over the last 6 to 8 months.” The auction which raised HK$31.8 million (US$4.1m), smashing its pre-sale high estimate of HK$20m, was carefully timed. In just two weeks it will be Chinese New Year and the year of the sheep, as in ram or ‘mouton’.

The symbolism resonated with Asian buyers, as did the sense of family with the Château’s new chairman, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, out in Asia to promote the sale, along with his sister Camille and brother Julien. Joining them were the estate’s winemaker Philippe Dhalluin and Sutcliffe who spoke of a non-stop itinerary from Shanghai to Beijing and Hong Kong.

Bloomberg quoted the Hong Kong-based MW Jeannie Cho Lee as saying: “This sale could resonate to the market that maybe Bordeaux is back. It’s a barometer for people’s mood for fine wine.” Sutcliffe was less emphatic.

“It’s an indication, but I definitely get the feeling that there’s slightly more spring in people’s step. We all know there are problems, notably in Europe and Greece, but out there in Hong Kong, Greece is quite a long way away.”

Being the first ever ex-Château sale of Mouton Rothschild in Asia, and almost eight years since the last one in New York, Sutcliffe was keen not to draw too many conclusions.

“You have to say the context was quite special, and it was gold-plated provenance.” Being ex-Château added cachet and weight to the hammer price. Bidders were happy to pay HK$67,000 for a case of the 2005 for example, which equates to £480 a bottle compared to around £250 from a London merchant like Roberson or Fine & Rare.

While Burgundy sales may hit the headlines on price, Sutcliffe said: “Bordeaux has continued to be the backbone of what we do because of the combination of quality and quantity.” She felt comparisons between the two regions are facile because “they are so unrelated”.

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