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Christie’s to host its first-ever baijiu auction in China

Auction house Christie’s will be the first international auctioneer to host a baijiu auction in China, featuring 178 lots of the country’s most famous brand Kweichow Moutai, set to take place in Shanghai on 21 September, the company has announced.

One of the highlights of Christie’s upcoming Moutai auction is a 1958 Moutai produced at the time for export. The bottle (upfront) carries a high estimate of RMB 300,000.

Featuring a total of 178 lots (almost 1,900 bottles), the collection titled: ‘Treasures of the Chishui River – Kweichow Moutai’ is described by Christie’s Asia head of wine Simon Tam as “unparalleled”. 

This is the first time that an international auction house has launched a Moutai-themed auction, arguably the best-known Chinese spirit, and one that has become the tipple of choice at banquets, and gift of choice among friends and business associates.

It is also increasingly an investment given its strong appreciation and high investment returns as we explore in the August-September issue of the drinks business Hong Kong.

Kweichow Moutai is the most collected alcoholic beverage within China, more sought-after than blue chip wines or even aged single malt whisky, according to Song Shuyu, secretary-general of the country’s official drinks trade organisation, China Alcoholic Drinks Association. By 2020, China’s wine and spirits investment market is expected to reach RMB 30 billion (US$4.48 billion), mainly driven by Moutai, Song estimated.

Baijiu is made throughout China, using rice and different types of grains, but only baijiu made in Moutai town by Kweichow Moutai distillery can be called ‘Moutai’, giving it a similar geographic indication to, for example, Champagne or Burgundy.

The most expensive bottle of baijiu auctioned so far is a 1935 Lay Mau that was sold for RMB 10 million (US$1.46 million) in Guizhou, Moutai’s home base, in 2011. Earlier this year, in July, a bottle of 80 year old Moutai, made by Kweichow Moutai in 1940, was auctioned off in China for a record RMB 1.97 million (US$294,345).

Two of the highlights from the Christie’s auction are a bottle of Moutai from 1958 and a 1957 Moutai, each carrying a high estimate of RMB 300,000 (US$43,800). There are other specially released Moutai, and aged Moutai from the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s, and the popular ‘iron cap’ Moutai.

Despite Moutai’s vast popularity, investment class Moutai has no shortage of fakes, a key reason that has been deterring major auction houses from hosting a Moutai sale.

Regarding the provenance of this sale, Tam, commented in the catalogue: “Our two consignors require very little introduction in the establishment of Moutai’s connoisseurs. They are well known and respected for their knowledge and fastidious selection of the finest stock,” referring to Guo Xiang Guan and Guangzhou Across Wine Industry.

The two companies, according to the auction catalogue, have been dealing with Moutai for years, doing Moutai appreciation, collection and investment.

Every single bottle in this sale is said to have a traceable code that can be referenced to this historical auction, according to Christie’s.

“Moutai’s global fame and Chinese ambassadorial role is second to none,” Tam continued, commenting on the collection. “In the tradition of bringing European legendary wines to the market, Christie’s is very excited to add Moutai, the greatest from the East to our offering.”

Prior to the sale, Christie’s will be hosting a Moutai master classes and tasting dinners across Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai to discuss the collecting value and investment outlook for Moutai while celebrating the appreciation of this top-quality liquor.

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