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Romanee-Conti Lifts Sotheby’s $13.8 Million Hong Kong Wine Sale

Romanee-Conti Lifts Sotheby's Sale
A bottle of Romanee-Conti 2005 from the cellar of Texan property developer Marcus D. Hiles is shown. A case of the Burgundy sold for HK$1,815,000 at Sotheby's weekend sale in Hong Kong. Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg

Burgundy’s Domaine de la Romanee-Conti led Sotheby’s two-day wine sale in Hong Kong, where Asian buyers branched out from top Bordeaux labels like Chateau Lafite Rothschild to extend their dominance in the global wine market.

The auctions tallied HK$107 million ($13.8 million) including fees, a record for Sotheby’s in the city, which may overtake New York this year as the world’s biggest wine-auction market. All 1,366 lots were sold, Sotheby’s said. The presale high estimate for the two days was HK$74 million.

“The Asian buyers who are driving the international wine market right now are broadening their horizons,” auctioneer Robert Sleigh, Sotheby’s head of wine for Asia, said in an interview after the sale. “We’ve now had something like 6,000 consecutive lots sold in almost 2 years in Asia. I’ve never seen anything like that” said Sleigh, who has worked in the auction house’s wine department for 14 years.

Romanee-Conti dominated the first day’s sale, from the cellar of Texan property developer Marcus D. Hiles, with the priciest 10 lots all coming from the estate and all being bought by Asian collectors. The top lot was a case of Romanee-Conti 2005 that sold for HK$1,815,000, against a presale high estimate of HK$1.2 million. A case of the same vineyard’s 2002 fetched almost HK$1.1 million, more than double its HK$540,000 high estimate.

The top lot on the second day, from the cellar of an unidentified American collector, was a set of three double magnums of Chateau Petrus 1989 that sold for HK$726,000, compared with a high estimate of HK$400,000. Sale prices include a 21 percent buyer’s premium, Sotheby’s said.

Art to Follow

The wine sales were part of Sotheby’s 3,200-lot Hong Kong auctions this week that the company estimated will raise up to HK$1.6 billion ($210 million). Sessions beginning today include contemporary Asian art; a 6.4 carat pink diamond; antiques; jewelry; and paintings by Chinese masters including abstract artist Zao Wou-ki.

The auctions will show whether rising wealth in China is continuing to drive a recovery in art prices. Sotheby’s said the 7-day event has 800 more lots than its April auction in the city, which took a record HK$2 billion and revived prices in most categories to pre-credit-crisis levels.

The wine sales are part of four wine auctions Sotheby’s is holding in Hong Kong this month, including one from the cellars of Chateau Lafite on Oct. 29 with vintages from 1869 to 2009, followed the next day by a collection of investment-grade Bordeaux from the wine fund of SK Networks, the trading arm of one of South Korea’s largest conglomerates, at the Mandarin Oriental hotel.

Chinese appetite for top Bordeaux and Burgundies such as Lafite, Petrus and Romanee-Conti helped Hong Kong’s wine auctions outperform those in New York in the first half of this year. Sotheby’s said it has sold every lot at its past nine wine auctions in Asia.

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