Asian collectors snapped up cases of Burgundy such as Romanee Conti and Montrachet as Sotheby’s (BID) sold HK$136.5 million ($17.5 million) of wine in three days at the start of its Hong Kong marathon.
All three auctions were sold out, with a case of 1990 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti fetching HK$1.8 million to become the top lot. Bottles of 1982 Chateau Petrus made $6,500 each on the first day. Haut-Brion, Latour, Margaux and Mouton-Rothschild were also in demand.
“Prices are up at least 20 percent on the October auction,” said S.K. Yu, a Hong Kong wine collector. “To those on the mainland, even though the final bid price is 30 percent higher than it should be, the item can still be sold for twice as much in China.”
Hong Kong eclipsed the U.S. in 2010 as the No. 1 wine auction market, based on research by the Wine Spectator Magazine. Sales in the former U.K. colony were $165 million, 40 percent of the global total. Hong Kong scrapped wine duties in February 2008, spurring demand.
Yu, 41, brought with him an iPad and computer to cross- check the market prices of the goods during the auction.
Sotheby’s raised $14.6 million in a two-day wine auction in January and HK$410.4 million in 2010, 60 percent of its global total and more than New York and London combined, it said in January. The three-day sale series brought the combined total of Sotheby’s Hong Kong wine sales series in 2011 to HK$250 million.
“There’s an auction fever that is almost contagious,” Jeannie Cho Lee, a Master of Wine, said before the sale. “The buyers are more and more mainland Chinese. Iconic brands seem to sell better because brand is especially important where there is a culture of giving and the importance of face.”
The 3,600-lot spring sale is part of Hong Kong’s first major auction of the year and had a presale estimate of HK$2.4 billion, said New York-based Sotheby’s, the world’s biggest publicly traded auction company.
The weekend wine sales are followed by Modern and Contemporary Asian Art, traditional Chinese paintings, antiques, jewelry, watches and ceramics through April 8. The highlights are two private European collections of ceramics and Chinese contemporary art, including an 18th-century Qing vase worth more than $23 million.
Guy Ullens, founder of Beijing’s largest private art museum, sold 106 works of Chinese contemporary art today that Sotheby’s estimated would raise as much as HK$130 million.
--Billy Chan and Bei Hu in Hong Kong. Editors: Mark Beech, Farah Nayeri.
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