Lafite 1982 Leads $820,000 Christie’s Online Wine Auction

A case of 1982 Chateau Lafite helped Christie’s International raise $819,715 in its first exclusively online wine auction yesterday.

The 1982, considered one of the best vintages of last century, was the most expensive lot fetching $42,350, including a 21 percent commission known as buyer’s premium.

The sale was the first foray into stand-alone online wine auctions by Christie’s, which until recently only allowed internet bidders to participate in live auctions. The two-week sale sourced from three private collections ended on August 20, with 88 percent of the 301 lots sold. The pre-sale estimates excluding premium ranged from $750,000 to $1 million.

The auction represents a push by Christie’s to gain market share in high-end sales. It also plans to sell watches, prints and fine art in all-online sales with the next internet-only wine sale starting on Oct. 16.

One quarter of the online clients were first-time buyers with Christie’s while many others, including an Asian client who bought the top lot, were existing customers buying wine for the first time, Per Holmberg, head of wine at Christie’s New York said.

The 444 registered bidders came from 29 countries, including Latvia and Indonesia. Brazilian bidders were also very active, mirroring the trend in other Christie’s sales, Holmberg said.

Chateau Petrus

The sale highlights included an original wooden case containing six bottles of 2000 Chateau Petrus that fetched $26,620, exceeding the $20,000 high estimate.

Two lots of 2000 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, each comprised of a dozen bottles, went for $16,940, surpassing the high estimates of $15,000. Twelve bottles of 1982 Chateau Latour fetched $21,780, surpassing the high estimate of $18,000.

Casualties included 2000 Chateau Lafite in an original wooden case, estimated between $20,000 and $30,000 and a case of 1989 Chateau Haut-Brion, estimated between $12,000 and $18,000, which failed to sell.

“This sale was heavy on Bordeaux,” said Holmberg. “Next time we are going to mix it up. We are consciously trying to get more Burgundy.”

Christie’s online sales generated $130 million in 2011, a 46 percent increase in that revenue stream since 2008, the first full year Christie’s tracked its online auction revenue. Last year 29 percent of bids received globally came through its online platform.

Wine was the most popular online category, accounting for 21 percent of Christie’s global wine sales last year. Watches were a close second.

Christie’s main rival Sotheby’s does not yet offer online-only auctions.

Muse highlights include John Mariani on wine and Mark Beech on theater.

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