DRC leads Sotheby’s sales once again

For the sixth consecutive year, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti was the most valuable label sold at Sotheby’s auctions – with sales greater than Petrus, Lafite and Latour combined.

Late last year the auction house announced that total sales across its auction and retail arms had topped US$100 million for the first time.

Sotheby’s fine wine department enjoyed something of a landmark 2018, with several new records set. Not only were total sales the highest they’ve ever been, the department also sold the most expensive bottle of wine ever (a 1945 DRC), topped its own internal record for most expensive bottle of spirits (a 60 year-old 1926 Macallan) and broke its own retail record (US$1.5 million for seven Methuselahs of DRC).

In terms of the regions and labels that dominated the Sotheby’s sale scene in 2018, it was very much a Bordeaux and Burgundy duet with the two regions accounting for 88% of sales by volume, up from 80% in 2017.

Bordeaux had the larger share of volume sales (46%) but Burgundy’s hit 42%, its highest ever level and both Asia and North America saw increased demand for wines from the Côte d’Or though Europe’s dropped from a 21% share to 5% – prices getting too hot perhaps?

The average price per bottle for Burgundy was $1,700 and $804 for Bordeaux, respective rises of 65% and 63% versus 2017. The highest bottle prices at both auction and retail though were for spirits; $9,796 and $1,813 respectively.

The highest average bottle price for an individual label was for The Macallan at $15,067, 27% up on 2017.

The next highest bottle price was for DRC, which saw bottle prices rise a stunning 87% to $8,813. Petrus saw prices rise 33% to $4,072 per bottle on average and Leroy saw prices go up 42% to $2,033 a bottle on average.

When it came to total sales though there was no competition. DRC alone saw total sales of $24m (up from $12m in 2017), comprising almost a quarter, 21%, of Sotheby’s total sales. Although spectacular, there’s no doubt that DRC’s success this year was driven in no small measure by the ex-cellar collection from the Drouhin family.

That collection, sold in New York in October, was the same sale that saw the 1945 Romanée-Conti sell for over $500,000 and the collection as a whole made just over $7m. Add the $1.5m from the sale of the seven Methuselahs in Hong Kong and those two moments alone (barely a month apart) account for nearly $9m.

Either way, DRC’s total sales were more than total sales of Petrus ($8m), Lafite ($7m) and Latour ($7m) combined.

Interestingly, in line with the recent Fine Wine Power 100 ranking from Liv-ex, Leroy was a much more visible player at auctions in 2018, rising from fifth to second place in the Burgundy producer rankings; with sales up from $1m in 2017 to $4m in 2018.

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