Continuing to ride the seemingly endless ascent of prices for Burgundy wine, sales of fine and rare wine at live wine auctions in major worldwide markets finished the third quarter with a cumulative total of US$ 207.8 million, an advance of 7.58% over the same period last year. In the auction market, success breeds success, and the year so far has seen more lots coming to market (just over 55,000 this year compared to slightly more than 52,000 last year). It is likely that the strong sales this year have helped to draw out high quality wines from closely-held collections. The strong market has also buoyed the sell-through rate, which improved to an average of 93.4%, up from 92.3% last year.
The quarter began as always with sporadic sales throughout the summer months of July and August, notably by Bonham’s, but it finished on a very strong note with an exceptional month of September. The season opened with a Christie’s sale in Hong Kong featuring a small tranche of the renowned N.K. Yong collection and a further selection from the cellar of Yap Chee Meng. The action continued with an exceptional sale from Heritage in Beverly Hills that featured a Burgundy-heavy single owner sale from an anonymous California vendor, which was 100% sold. Acker, Merrall conducted a sale at in New York the next day featuring another selection from California collector Wilf Jaeger. Sales continued the following weekend in New York with a large sale by Zachys, headlined by consignments from well-known collectors Tawfiq Khoury and Gene Wong. Two somewhat more modest sales in London followed the events in New York, and the month concluded with Sotheby’s annual series of autumn auctions, which featured both a multi-vendor with mixed property and an interesting single-owner sale whose vendor is a Fux restaurant in Austria.
In category terms, Champagne appeared to weaken in the third quarter as the average price of ’96 Clos du Mesnil slipped 5.0% to an average $1,854, although prices still remain sharply higher than last year’s average. Bordeaux prices advanced slightly, with the biggest gains seen by 1986 Mouton at +2.1% to an average of $796/btl. The big story, however, continues to be the steady advance of Burgundy prices. 1990 Romanée-Conti hit a remarkable new high of more than $44,000 per bottle at the September Sotheby’s sale (+20.8%). The same sale saw records for 1999 DRC La Tâche ($7,111/btl) and 2005 DRC Montrachet ($10,272/btl) among other wines. Elsewhere, Zachys also set a record price with a remarkable $67,600 for a jeroboam of 1971 La Tâche. Rhône wines were mixed as ’99 Guigal La Mouline and ’90 Rayas Châteauneuf retreated slightly while ’78 Jaboulet surged 18.4% on the jaunty price of $3,161/btl set at the Sotheby’s Hong Kong sale. Other category saw more modest gains, such as ’97 Screaming Eagle at +5.5% to an average $3,920/btl and ’63 Noval Nacional +3.7% to $3,211. Even spirits showed great vigor, with a 58-bottle set of Ichiro’s “Cards” bottling of Japanese whisky selling at the Sotheby’s Hong Kong sale for $454,862. With results such as this, the market seems set to report the best result in several years.