80-year-old Moutai auctioned for US$300,000 in China

A bottle of 80 year old Moutai, made by Kweichow Moutai in 1940, has been auctioned off in China for a record RMB 1.97 million (US$294,345), more than twice its estimated price, at a recent Moutai-themed auction that brought in close to RMB 85 million (US$12.5 million).

A bottle of Kweichow Moutai bearing Lay Mau label was sold in China for RMB 1.97 million at a recent auction.

The results highlighted the investment value of China’s best known sorghum- and grain-based liquor, and shows that Chinese collectors spare no expense to bid massively on rare vintage baijiu bottles.

The single bottle price, though stunning, was still lamented by many industry insiders within mainland China as being less than expected, reported state-owned news agency Xinhua, given Moutai’s popularity and high investment return. A previous ‘Lay Mau’ produced in 1935 fetched a record of RMB 10.7 million (US$1.6 million), making it the most expensive single bottle of Moutai ever sold in China.

The bottle is considered rare as it’s still bottled under the ‘Lay Mau’ label at the time before Kweichow Moutai merged three separate distillers in southwestern China in 1953 to form the current state-owned company that people have come to know, according to the online auction catalogue at Xiling Yinshe, a Zhejiang-based Chinese auction house that specialises in Chinese calligraphy and art works.

The baijiu bearing the ‘Lay Mau’ label was exported to Hong Kong shortly after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

According to the auction house, the top selling lot consisted of 100 bottles of Moutai made between 1983 and 1986, which was sold for RMB 3.335 million (US$498,000). The bottles are still wrapped with cotton paper, a characteristic of the local state-run company at the time. The Moutai auction held on 7 July featured over 6,000 bottles of Moutai and generated RMB 84.88 million in total.

Despite its increasing prices, Moutai is much consumed and collected within China. Vintage barrels of baijiu and vintage bottles from other famous Chinese distillers are also popular among collectors though arguably Kweichow Moutai is the most sought-after one.

The baijiu investment market in China was estimated to be around RMB 5 billion to RMB 7 billion in 2015, and was projected to reach RMB 30 billion (US$4.48 billion) by 2020, Southern Metropolis Daily reported, citing Song Shuyu, general secretary of China’s Alcohol Association.

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