Romanee-Conti ’90 Leads Wine Auctions at Bonhams, Wally’s

Wines from the 1990 vintage of Burgundy’s Romanee-Conti vineyards led bidding at sales at Bonhams in London and Wally’s Auctions in New York in the past two weeks amid demand for older bottles from the region.

An assorted case of 12 bottles of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti fetched 28,200 pounds ($46,790) at Bonhams on April 3 while a second case, also a DRC assortment, sold for $48,000 at Wally’s on March 28, according to e-mailed results from the auction houses.

The sales came as investors and collectors have sought out older vintages and historic wines from regions such as Burgundy and northern Italy as prices for more recent Bordeaux wines have remained under pressure.

Results were “very strong across the board,” Julia Gilbert, managing director of Wally’s Auctions, said by phone from New York, citing bidding on wines ranging from Domaine Fourrier and Domaine Duroche in Burgundy to Dana Estates and Screaming Eagle in California. “This was our second live auction; our next one will be in June.”

The DRC assortment cases at the two sales both comprised one bottle each of Romanee-Conti and Grands-Echezeaux, two each of Echezeaux and Richebourg and three each of La Tache and Romanee-Saint-Vivant.


The core Romanee-Conti vineyard in Vosne-Romanee is just under 2 hectares (5 acres) in size and has its own designated appellation as a Burgundy grand cru wine.

Other top lots at Wally’s included an eight-bottle assortment of 2009 DRC, which fetched $31,200, and two 12-bottle assorted cases of 1993 and 2001 DRC, which each sold for $26,400.

Chateau Petrus, from Bordeaux’s Pomerol region, also featured among the top lots in both sales. A case of 1975 Petrus sold for $26,400 at Wally’s, while at Bonhams a three-bottle lot of Petrus 1990 and a six-bottle lot of Petrus 2004 each fetched 6,463 pounds.

Petrus has 28 acres planted with red-grape vines, of which 95 percent are Merlot and 5 percent Cabernet Franc. Fermentation is in temperature-controlled concrete tanks and the wine is matured in new oak barrels.

Sales Trend

The Wally’s sale raised a total $1.88 million, while the smaller Bonhams auction totaled 450,400 pounds. Wally’s Wine & Spirits, a Los Angeles wine store founded in 1968 which changed ownership last year, has only recently set up a New York-based auction business and held its inaugural sale in November.

A Hart Davis Hart Wine Co. sale fetched a total $5.05 million at a two-day wine auction in Chicago that ended March 22, the company said in an e-mailed statement.

The sales over the past three weeks, marking the transition from the first quarter to the second, came after wine sales by leading world auction houses declined for the second straight year in 2013, reflecting both muted appetite for recent Bordeaux vintages and a clampdown by China on gift-giving.

Sales by Acker Merrall & Condit Co., Christie’s International, Sotheby’s, Zachys Wine Auctions and Hart Davis Hart Wine Co. dropped 15 percent to $278 million in 2013, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The decline in auctions last year followed an 18 percent plunge in 2012 wine sales by the five houses to $326 million, including Internet-only events, from a record $397 million reached at equivalent sales in 2011.