A two-bottle lot of Moet & Chandon Champagne from the 1914 vintage fetched 10,340 pounds ($16,620) at a Sotheby’s wine sale in London this week, exceeding the auction house’s presale estimate.
The historic lot was part of a vintage collection marking the Champagne house’s 270th anniversary. Bottles of Moet spanning the years from 2004 back to the start of World War I, and including 174 magnums and three jeroboams, fetched 147,333 pounds in total, according to Sotheby’s.
The auction came as the benchmark Liv-ex Fine Wine 50 Index has given up gains made in the first 10 weeks of the year, after investors deterred by prices of recent Bordeaux vintages sought alternatives outside the region. The Champagne, including the bottles from 1914, came direct from the cellars of Moet & Chandon, part of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, the world’s largest luxury goods company.
“The harvest had to be brought forward because of the outbreak of the world war, which meant that in its youth the 1914 was quite austere and closed,” Jo Thornton, managing director of Moet Hennessy U.K. Ltd., said in an interview in London on Nov. 11. Champagne “tends to age for much more than people think. This will be drinking for years to come.”
Three two-bottle lots of Moet & Chandon 1921 sold for 8,813 pounds each, while three single bottles of the 1928 vintage fetched 5,405 pounds each, beating estimates. Two other two-bottle lots of the 1914 vintage fetched 7,285 pounds each.
In the broader Champagne market, U.S. and Japanese demand has been driving Champagne sales at LVMH while Europe still lags, according to Chief Financial Officer Jean-Jacques Guiony.
LVMH’s Champagne volumes rose 2 percent in the first nine months of this year, with top-selling brands in the U.S. including Veuve Clicquot and Dom Perignon, Guiony said on an analysts’ conference call Oct. 16. The Japanese market, while smaller by volume, is important in value terms because premium Dom Perignon accounts for most of the sales.
“The U.K. is tracking slightly behind the global average” for Champagne sales, Thornton said in the interview. “Consumers continue to be under quite a lot of pressure here. Disposable income is certainly being squeezed and we’re seeing that in terms of our sales.”
LVMH’s Champagne brands include Krug, Mercier and Ruinart in addition to Moet & Chandon, Dom Perignon and Veuve Clicquot, according to its website. Its still wine business includes Bordeaux estates Chateau Cheval Blanc and Chateau d’Yquem as well as vineyards in California, South America and Australia.
The economic slowdown in Europe sparked by the debt crisis of the past four years has reduced the Champagne industry’s sales in France, focusing growers’ sales efforts on overseas markets. The domestic French market accounted for 55.5 percent of all Champagne bottles sold last year, the lowest level since 1977, according to data on the website of the Comite Interprofessionnel des Vins de Champagne, or CIVC, while exports for the industry overall were more buoyant.
This week’s Sotheby’s sale also included a case of La Tache 2009 DRC Burgundy, which fetched 25,850 pounds, while 12 bottles of Le Pin 1990 from the Pomerol estate sold for 21,150 pounds, according to the auction house.
At a separate auction held by Christie’s International Plc in Geneva this week over two days ending Nov. 13, the top price was paid for six magnums of Chateau La Mission-Haut Brion 1955, which fetched 47,000 Swiss francs ($51,320), beating its presale estimate. Four bottles of Romanee-Conti 2009 Domaine de la Romanee Conti Burgundy sold for 44,650 francs, within estimates.
Following is a table of major wine auctions held so far this year, with the total sold in dollars. Links are to auction websites or results statements.
JANUARY: Jan. 11/12: Zachys, Hong Kong $4.65 mln Jan. 25/26: Acker, Merrall & Condit, Hong Kong $6.82 mln Jan. 30: Sotheby’s, London $2.22 mln FEBRUARY: Feb. 2: Hart Davis Hart, Chicago $4.40 mln Feb. 21: Christie’s, London $1.47 mln Feb. 23: Acker, Merrall & Condit, New York $3.10 mln Feb. 23: Sotheby’s, New York $1.46 mln Feb. 27: Sotheby’s, London $1.04 mln MARCH: March 7/8: Zachys, New York $5.81 mln March 14: Christie’s, New York $1.37 mln March 15/16: Christie’s, Hong Kong $6.19 mln March 21: Christie’s, London $1.22 mln March 22/23: Acker Merrall & Condit, Hong Kong $4.93 mln March 23: Hart Davis Hart, Chicago $4.42 mln APRIL: April 3: Acker Merrall & Condit, New York $2.30 mln April 3/4: Sotheby’s, Hong Kong $8.86 mln April 17: Sotheby’s, London $2.06 mln April 23: Christie’s, Amsterdam $1.23 mln April 25/26: Zachys, New York $4.13 mln April 26/27: Sotheby’s, New York $2.60 mln April 27: Acker Merrall & Condit, New York $2.48 mln MAY: May 2: Christie’s, London $1.93 mln May 14: Christie’s, Geneva $3.96 mln May 17/18: Hart Davis Hart, Chicago $6.42 mln May 22: Acker Merrall & Condit, New York $2.22 mln May 22: Sotheby’s, London $1.31 mln May 24/25: Zachys, Hong Kong $5.73 mln May 25: Christie’s, Hong Kong $6.32 mln May 30: Christie’s, New York $0.71 mln May 31: Christie’s, New York $1.93 mln JUNE: May 31/June 1: Acker, Merrall & Condit, Hong Kong $5.91 mln June 6: Christie’s, London $1.85 mln June 13/14: Zachys, New York $3.56 mln June 29: Acker Merrall & Condit, Hamptons $3.40 mln June 28/29: Hart Davis Hart, Chicago $4.75 mln JULY: July 17: Sotheby’s, London $2.09 mln AUGUST: Aug. 31: Christie’s, Hong Kong $3.84 mln SEPTEMBER: Sept. 7: Acker Merrall & Condit, New York $3.15 mln Sept. 7: Sotheby’s, Hong Kong $4.51 mln Sept. 7: Zachys, Hong Kong $4.45 mln Sept. 12: Christie’s, London $2.13 mln Sept. 13/14: Acker, Merrall & Condit, Hong Kong $6.40 mln Sept. 18: Sotheby’s, London $1.80 mln Sept. 19/20: Zachys, New York $6.18 mln Sept. 20/21: Hart Davis Hart, Chicago $5.03 mln Sept. 20/21: Sotheby’s, New York $3.96 mln OCTOBER: Oct. 4/5: Sotheby’s, Hong Kong $12.10 mln Oct. 5: Acker Merrall & Condit, New York $2.35 mln Oct. 11: Christie’s, New York $2.73 mln Oct. 23: Sotheby’s, London $3.73 mln Oct. 24: Christie’s, London $1.48 mln Oct. 25/26: Hart Davis Hart, Chicago $4.70 mln Oct. 26: Acker Merrall & Condit, Hong Kong $5.13 mln NOVEMBER: Nov. 9: Sotheby’s, New York $2.05 mln Nov. 12/13: Christie’s, Geneva $3.59 mln Nov. 13/14: Sotheby’s, London $2.15 mln