By Jake Lee
- Acker Merrall & Condit
- Wines from Bordeaux still dominate auction sales.
A trio of wine auctions kick off tonight in Hong Kong with Chinese collectors showing few signs that a crackdown by Beijing on luxury buying is denting their thirst for the world’s top bottles — especially if they’re from Burgundy.
Zachys Asia leads the pack with an evening sale Thursday followed by a day-time auction Saturday. Acker Merrall & Condit starts a two-day sale on Friday evening, while Sotheby’sBID +0.65% holds an all-day auction Saturday.
Over the past years, buyers in Asia have come to dominate the global market thanks to wealthy China-based clients turning to the wine-trading hub of Hong Kong, which abolished wine duties in 2008. However, one recent headwind that has taken some of the heat out of the market has been Beijing’s year-long antigraft drive aimed partially at cutting down on business gifts.
- Bottles of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Burgundy’s most famous producer.
Prices of Bordeaux – think Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Petrus – have dipped, especially on recent vintages, and it’s now Burgundy that is the most sought-after region, with the top producers commanding even record prices.
By far the most illustrious is Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Burgundy’s most famous producer, while other names like Henri Jayer and Armand Rousseau are commanding hefty prices, too. The city’s retailers and restaurants have also caught onto the trend, hosting wine dinners and tastings that are frequently priced in the hundreds of U.S. dollars and often held when wine makers visit.
“Bordeaux is pretty stable, and there’s some renewed energy in older vintages,” said John Kapon, chief executive and auctioneer at Acker Merrall, the world’s biggest wine auction house. But “people are willing to spend more on Burgundy given small productions and minute quantities. People realize how rare they are when they come up.”
He added that almost half the sale is made up of Burgundy, which is far higher than usual.
Bordeaux bottles still dominate auction sales overall, though, since their names are typically far more recognizable than other regions, and they benefit from bigger production and a simple rating system that denotes quality. Bordeaux made up 64% of sales in Sotheby’s Hong Kong auction rooms last year, compared to just 25% for Burgundy.
- Acker Merrall & Condit
- Prices for top Burgundies are rising at auction.
And while prices for top Burgundies are rising, the shift away from Bordeaux has taken its toll on the industry’s benchmark price index, the Liv-ex Fine Wine 100 index, which has fallen for a third year in 2013, down 1.4%. It tracks the moves of the 100 most sought-after wines, with the majority of them Bordeaux.
Some of the biggest falls have been in the youngest wines, especially the vintages of 2009 and 2010 from Bordeaux that were priced high because of exceptionally good growing conditions, but won’t be at peak drinking condition for decades.
“Once you get into younger wines, there is less enthusiasm for that,” said Robert Sleigh, Sotheby’s head of wine in Asia. Still, “Bordeaux makes up the core of the wine business and is making some of best wine ever made and there’s strong demand for it.”