Hong Kong: All 9,000 bottles found buyers at Sotheby’s first wine auction in Hong Kong that ended last night, fetching a higher-than-expected HK$49.9 million (around Rs33 crore). Dozens of items sold for several times auction-house forecasts and some exceeded prices from local dealers, said collectors.
The most expensive lot was a 6-litre bottle of 1961 Chateau Latour, which went for HK$484,000, against a pre-sale estimate of HK$400,000. Sotheby’s said it had expected the 750-lot sale to raise a total of HK$30 million. Estimates don’t include a 21% buyer’s commission.
Nascent market: An auctioneer takes bids during the Sotheby’s wine auction at the Hong Kong Convention Exhibition Center on Saturday. Sotheby's Hong Kong via Bloomberg
With this auction, Sotheby’s waded into Hong Kong’s nascent wine-auction market to rival competitors Christie’s International and Acker Merrall and Condit. In Hong Kong, wine has fared better than other categories at auction, with Christie’s and Acker reporting at least 90% of lots selling at their most-recent sales, aided by competition between bidders even as economic growth slowed.
“I thought the wines were too expensive,” George Tong, a Hong Kong-based collector, said in an interview on Saturday. “Many lots were going for way above what you would pay in the market.”
Citing as example a 12-bottle, original-casing 1959 Chateau Margaux, which fetched HK$200,000 at Sotheby’s, Tong said he had paid about HK$40,000 in October for a 6-bottle lot of the same wine at Bonham’s auction in Hong Kong.
A 12-bottle lot of 2000 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, in original wooden casing, fetched HK$162,500 on Saturday; Tong said the wine retails in Hong Kong at about HK$10,000 a bottle.
The 10 priciest lots were bought by Asian private collectors, said Sotheby’s, which would not give their names. Buyers from the region paid a combined HK$1.3 million for a 9-lot assortment of 108 bottles of 1996 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti.
About 300 people—some seated at tables that served snacks, with others sitting in rows—watched in the packed room as auctioneer Jamie Ritchie took bids from telephone and salesroom buyers.
Saturday’s auction in Hong Kong was the twin of a 14 March sale in New York that netted $2.2 million (around Rs11 crore), both of which sold bottles from the same American collector, which Sotheby’s didn’t identify.
The Hong Kong government is promoting the city as Asia’s wine-trading center. Last February, the government abolished duties on the beverage, lowering the costs of trading and storing bottles in Hong Kong to encourage more Asian collectors to move their wines from current hubs such as London.
The event started Sotheby’s five-day sale of 1,700 lots of paintings, gems and antiques that the company expects to fetch at least HK$600 million.
The auction continued on Sunday with the sale of contemporary South-East Asian art and traditional Chinese paintings.