Petrus Vies With Ausone as Wine Sales Move to California

Chateau Petrus
A case of Chateau Petrus from the 2001 vintage. Offered in its original wooden six-bottle boxes, it was included in a 294-lot auction of wines at Christie's International in London on Feb. 23. Source: Christie's via Bloomberg

The most expensive Pomerol producers Chateau Petrus and Le Pin are competing with Bordeaux first-growth Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Saint-Emilion estate Chateau Ausone and top Burgundies at sales worth as much as $11 million.

Five auctions are scheduled this week in London, New York and California. Sotheby’s has a top estimate of $1.78 million at its London sale today, Christie’s International of $1.23 million in a U.K. auction tomorrow and Zachy’s of $5.1 million at its two-day Burgundy-focused sale in San Francisco ending Feb. 24. Sotheby’s also has a New York sale Feb. 25 and Bonhams holds events in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles the same day.

Prices for top Bordeaux wines have fallen 20 percent from mid-2011 highs as Asian demand has switched to second-growths and rarer Burgundies. There are signs now of the market stabilizing, with the Liv-ex 100 Fine Wine Index rising 1.4 percent in January, its first monthly gain since June.

“We have had six months of falling prices owing to the selling down of inventories by major market players in response to a two-year fine-wine-market bull run that ended in the spring of 2011,” Miles Davis and William Beck, partners in London-based Wine Asset Managers LLP, wrote its February market report.

Bordeaux’s “very consumer-unfriendly 2010 en primeur campaign, debt crises in the U.S. and Europe and a credit crunch in China” have also pushed wine prices lower, they said.

The 15 percent drop in the Liv-ex 100 Index last year followed two years of gains, with a 40 percent jump in 2010.

Chateau Ausone

Christie’s sale includes cases of Ausone 2000 and Petrus 2001 each carrying a top estimate of 14,000 pounds ($22,200) as well as cases of Lafite 2000 and 2003 valued at as much as 15,000 pounds and 13,000 pounds respectively.

The top estimate for the Ausone 2000 is 44 percent below the HK$306,000 ($39,400) that a case of the same vintage fetched at a Christie’s sale in Hong Kong in September 2010, as the two-year bull market in wine approached its peak.

“There was a bit of a bubble and the auction market for Bordeaux took a hit,” Simon Davies, head of marketing at London-based brokers Fine + Rare Wines Ltd., said in an interview. “The new price structure has settled down now. Asian bidders have got a lot more savvy and they’re not just buying to show off to their friends.”

Sotheby’s features a case of Le Pin 1990 carrying a top estimate of 26,000 pounds and two lots of three Petrus 2000 magnums each priced at as much as 17,000 pounds.

Zachys Sale

Zachys is holding its auction in San Francisco on Feb. 23 and Feb. 24. Its top lots include half a case of Romanee Conti Domaine de la Romanee Conti 1996 with a high estimate of $60,000, a magnum of the same vintage at $20,000 and a three-liter jeroboam at as much as $42,000.

Zachys also has three cases of Romanee Saint-Vivant Dujac 2009 from San Francisco-based Burgundy collector Wilf Jaeger, who has had an investment in the vineyard since 2005. Each lot carries a high estimate of $30,000, while two three-magnum lots are on sale at $15,000 each and a jeroboam at $10,000.

At Sotheby’s in New York Feb. 25 top lots include two cases of Petrus 1982 with a top estimate of $60,000. It estimates it may sell as much as $1.9 million of wine at the auction.

Bonhams has sales on Feb. 25 in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, with a top estimated value of $1.59 million.

The Liv-ex market in London said its monthly transactions rose 41 percent in January from a year earlier, with increased trading in 2006 and 2008 Bordeaux wines. The 2009s led in value terms and accounted for 13 percent of turnover before U.S. critic Robert Parker releases revised vintage scores this month.

“What we’re seeing now in the market is it’s actually strengthening by diversifying and going outside of the Bordeaux box,” John Kapon, Chief Executive Officer of New York-based Acker Merrall & Condit, the world’s largest wine auction house, said in an interview with Deirdre Bolton on Bloomberg Television’s “Money Moves” Feb. 17. “Other consumers from elsewhere are really looking to Burgundy, they’re looking to Italy, they’re looking to California,” Kapon said.

(Guy Collins and Scott Reyburn write about the art and wine markets for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News.)

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