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Delhi Wine Club
Asian Tiger brings Boom in Wine Auctions

Posted: Thursday, 23 December 2010 11:31

Asian Tiger brings Boom in Wine Auctions

The world is still suffering from a wine glut and there has been a squeeze on the prices of  up to 30% and more but there have been record collections in Hong Kong auctions thanks to China with the Golden Tiger as the zodiac sign for the Chinese year ending 2 February 2011,  with the  three biggest wine auctioneers of the world increasing sales  reportedly by 88 percent in 2010.

Sotheby’s worldwide wine sales in 2010 crossed over US $89 million, the company’s highest ever year total for wine sales. Over $52 million revenues were generated through sales in Hong Kong. In contrast, it could garner only around $21 million in London and $15million in New York; together the two did not even come close to its Hong Kong pickings, mostly from the wealthy Asian (read Chinese) buyers. It is also interesting that it has had 11 consecutive auctions since 2009 with 100% lots sold, a record unsurpassed by any other major auction house.

In another sign that the world economy is on the road to recovery-at least in the auction market, Christie's auction house in London reported that global wine sales topped US $71 million for 2010, about the level they were in 2007 before the start of the recession but 40% higher than last year.

During the spring when Christie’s held 10 auctions in London, Paris, Geneva, Amsterdam, New York and Hong Kong, $20.9-million worth of fine wines and spirits were auctioned. In autumn, 13 sales in the same cities yielded a total of $50.5 million. Compared to 2009, the auction house's global wine sales were $50.4 million in total.

Bordeaux in general and Chateau Lafite in particular had their sweet impact on the extra ordinary numbers for Sotheby’s. It sold 284 lots of Bordeaux directly from Chateau Lafite for the staggering total of $8.4 million in October- three times the pre-sale estimates.

The real star and beneficiary of the Golden Tiger seems to be New York based Acker, Merrall & Condit, which established an office in Hong Kong in 2008 after the government of this SAR-Special Administrative Region of China, announced waiver of taxes and duties on wine imports. Buoyed by the results achieved, it made the city as the Asian Headquarters recently.

'We have witnessed the fastest growth of our business here in Asia,' said John Kapon, president and auction director of the family owned auction house. John was very optimistic about Hong Kong when we shared the same dinner table one evening at the World Wine Symposium at Villa d’Este last year but one wonders if he then thought he would achieve such spectacular results and be on top of the heap in Hong Kong this year.

Acker conducted 6 auctions, the last one being on December 10 and 11; it clocked a figure of US $63.5 million, representing a growth of 206% over 2009. In New York, the figures of $28 million represent an increase of 55% over last year. In addition, it auctioned off around US$7 million over the internet. According to the figures received from the company yesterday, it has sold wine worth over US$98.5 million in 2010, making it presumably the biggest wine auctioneer in the world.

With a note of satisfaction, John Kapon says, ‘Once again, we stand at the top of Asia’s and the world’s wine auction market with our record-breaking results. We have witnessed the fastest growth of our businesses in Asia ever since our inaugural sale in Hong Kong in May 2008. Hong Kong has now overtaken New York as the world’s largest wine auction centre, and we are proud to be the biggest factor in that equation.’ Naturally Kapon is looking forward to scaling new heights next year.

Chicago-based Hart Davis Hart Wine reported that its yearly wine auction sales totaled over $39 million, a 63% increase over 2009. New York-headquartered Zachy's Wine Auctions, which also holds sales in Hong Kong, reported US $56.5 million worth of wines were sold.

The total sales from auctions were a record US $252 million, according to Bloomberg. According to delWine calculations the figures ought to be much higher. The five  auctioneers listed above appear to have sold for more than US $354 million.

So is the dotcom-like bubble likely to burst soon? Not in the near future, according to Charles Curtis, head of Christie's wines. "I think in 2011 prices will be going through the roof," he says. In fact he is moving to Hong Kong from New York to lead Christie's efforts in Asia. "There are new areas of demand opening up all the time," he says reportedly.

“The reason it’s happened so quickly is that many of the Asian buyers are starting from scratch,” said Serena Sutcliffe MW, Sotheby’s Head of International Wine Department of the New York based Sotheby’s. “They’re drawn to the Western lifestyle. They’re building big houses and want a cellar. It’s an important part of business and social life.”

Perhaps the spectacular results had something to do with Chinese businessmen being bullish because of the Zodiac sign of the Chinese Year- the Golden Tiger?!

We shall soon find out as the Year ends on February 2, 2011- after Acker’s auction on 21 and 22 January while Sotheby’s comes out on Jan 22-23.

Subhash Arora


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