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Lafite Demand Lackluster at Hong Kong Sale

Romanee Conti Domaine
A six-bottle set of Romanee Conti Domaine de la Romanee Conti spanning the years 1990 to 1995. This lot was included in a Christie's International sale in Hong Kong on April 21. Source: Christie's via Bloomberg

Lackluster demand at a Christie’s International wine auction raised HK$32.7 million ($4.2 million) in Hong Kong Saturday, with only 74 percent of lots sold as buyers became more selective about vintages.

“A flight to quality is a good assessment,” Charles Curtis, head of wine for Christie’s Asia, said after the sale. “There was an oversupply of young vintages and we were starved for older vintages.”

During the one-day sale, which lasted nearly seven hours, demand was anemic for all but the best vintages of first growth Bordeaux wines, dealers said.

A large number of lots of younger vintages of Chateau Lafite and other first growths went unsold, while less desirable older growths only fetched prices near their low estimates.

That’s a sea change from a year ago when any bottle of Lafite or Chateau Margaux sold for prices well in excess of the higher estimates, in auctions routinely 100 percent sold out.

The Liv-Ex 50 Fine Wine Index, which tracks Bordeaux first growths, has fallen 23 percent since June.

The bright spot of the auction came during lively bidding on a sale of three verticals of Romanee-Conti Domaine de la Romanee Conti, the top Burgundy that consistently commands the highest prices at auction.

A single telephone bidder bought each of the three six-bottle lots spanning the years 1990-1995, 1996-2001 and 2002-2007, for a combined HK$2.18 million ($280,000), or HK$121,000 per bottle.

The most paid for a single lot on the day was for a 56-bottle vertical of La Tache Domaine de la Romanee Conti spanning the years 1951 to 2008 (excluding 1968) which sold for HK$1 million, or HK$17,860 per bottle, compared with a presale low estimate of HK$1.2 million.

(Frederik Balfour is a reporter at large for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

-Editors: Jim McDonald, Mark Beech.

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