U.S. Wine Auctions Match Hong Kong as China Demand Falls

The U.S. matched Hong Kong in wine auction sales by the five largest houses in the final three months of last year after outstripping it in the second quarter, in a sign of weakened Chinese demand for top Bordeaux in 2012.

Sales in the U.S., excluding internet events, totaled $46.5 million in the quarter to Dec. 31, compared with $46.0 million in Hong Kong, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from Acker Merrall & Condit, Christie’s International, Sotheby’s, Zachys and Hart Davis Hart Wine Co. Second-quarter wine sales amounted to $37.0 million in the U.S. and $31.2 million in Hong Kong.

Chinese appetite for Bordeaux has slowed over the past year as Asian buyers have become unwilling to pay ever-higher auction records for top wines such as Chateau Lafite-Rothschild. That’s been reflected in the Liv-ex Fine Wine 50 Index, which declined 9.7 percent last year after a 17 percent drop in 2011. The index comprises 10 vintages each of Lafite, Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, Chateau Latour, Chateau Margaux and Chateau Haut-Brion.

Hong Kong maintained its lead in the first and third quarters, partly reflecting large January sales in the territory in the run-up to Chinese New Year and a similarly intensive schedule of auctions in September.

U.S. auctions were focused in New York, while also featuring sales in Chicago and California. Most European sales took place in London.

Following is a table of wine sales totals for the leading regions, based on data compiled by Bloomberg from the five auction houses. The figures exclude internet-only sales and major charity events.

FOURTH QUARTER:

Hong Kong:           $46.0 million
U.S.:                $46.5 million
Europe:              $19.9 million

THIRD QUARTER:

Hong Kong:           $20.1 million
U.S.:                $14.9 million
Europe:               $6.6 million

SECOND QUARTER:

Hong Kong:           $31.2 million
U.S.:                $37.0 million
Europe:              $12.1 million

FIRST QUARTER:

Hong Kong:           $37.3 million
U.S.:                $25.7 million
Europe:              $13.4 million

TOTAL 2012

Hong Kong: $134.6 million U.S. $124.1 million Europe: $52.0 million
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