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Sotheby’s first exclusive Champagne sale raises €1.35 million

Sotheby’s first ever auction devoted exclusively to Champagne sale achieved €1.35 million (US$1.45 million) with the percentage of lots sold for prices above their high estimates among the highest seen for a wine sale this year.

The sale, which was also the first wine sale to take place in Paris last week was the second  of four sales devoted to the cellar of Taiwanese art collector Pierre Chen, the largest and most valuable wine collections to ever come to market.  The first sale, which was held Hong Kong on 24 and 25 November, raised US$16.8 million. 

Just over half of the lots half of the lots sold achieving prices above their high estimates, the auction house said, and there was “very spirited bidding on a number of lots, both online and on the telephone” which demonstrated the level of interest.

George Lacey, Head of Sotheby’s Wine, Asia said he was delighted to have concluded the first ever Champagne-only auction.

 “In one day in one saleroom, we sold US$1.5 million worth of Champagne, which is a fantastic achievement considering that just two years ago, our global, annual sale total for the category across all auctions was US$1.9 million,” Lacey said.

He noted that there was “particularly strong bidding” from clients in Southeast Asia and Continental Europe – Japan is the third most important Champagne market globally after the US and UK, and around 35% of the volume of Champagne imported into Japan is Prestige Cuvée – which was “testament to the extraordinary quality and depth of Pierre Chen’s cellar, and the growing appreciation for this category amongst collectors worldwide.”

The auction house noted that the sale attracted interest from young clientele and women – a fifth of the buyers were women, which is more than double the average percentage across Sotheby’s wine sales this year. Around a quarter of the bidders were under 40.

Among the top lots was a set of 3 magnums of Salon Le Mesnil, Blanc de Blancs 1990 which more than doubled its high estimate to sell for €25,000 / $26,850 (est. €9,500-13,000). The champagne house featured heavily in the top lots, with 3 magnums of Salon Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs 1988, more than doubling its low estimate (€10,000-13,000) to achieve €22,500 (US$24,165);  3 magnums of the Blanc de Blancs 1983, sold for €21,250 (US$22,822), against an estimate of €9,000-12,000)  and 12 bottles of Salon Le Mesnil, Blanc de Blancs 1996, sold for €17,500 (US$18,795), topping its pre-sale estimate of €12,000-15,000).

The other two Champagne houses in the top ten were Dom Perignon and Krug, which in 2023, Krug became the first Champagne house on the list of top 10 producers by value at Sotheby’s.

A magnum of Dom Pérignon, P3 1966, sold for €23,750 (US$25,508), smashing its pre-sale estimate of €7,500-9,500, while six bottles of Dom Pérignon, P3 1982, sold for €20,000 (US$21,480); 3 magnums of Dom Pérignon Rosé, P3 1988, sold for €18,750 (US$20,138);

Finally, 6 magnums of Krug Collection 1985, more than doubled the low estimate to achieve for €21,250, while six bottles of Krug, Clos d’Ambonnay 1996, sold for €16,250 (US$17,452).

Between 2022 to 2023, the auction house saw a three-fold increase in the value and volume of Champagne sold at auction, growing sales from $1.9m in 2022 to $5.3m in 2023. It also pointed out that the value of the index that tracks the price-performance of the most desirable and widely traded Champagnes currently sitting roughly 50% higher than it was five years ago.

However, despite the fierce competition of some of the top names, nearly a quarter of bottles failed to sell, which suggests the edge may have started to come off the Champagne market.

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