HONG KONG (Reuters) - An American wine auction house sold $6.7 million of fine vintages in Hong Kong on Saturday with Asian buyers attracted to cheaply-priced wines.
Despite some initial apprehension the financial crisis might dry the growing thirst among affluent Asians for the world's rarest and finest vintages, Acker Merrall & Condit sold nearly 90 percent of 950 lots of wines and champagnes in the firm's second major wine auction in Hong Kong this year.
John Kapon, Acker's president and auction director, said its success in persuading consignors to accept lower prices given the current market was "the key to the sale" with many lots sold for 10-20 percent less than their low estimates.
The results while robust, were sober compared with Acker's inaugural record-breaking Hong Kong sale in May which netted $8.2 million amid frenzied bursts of bidding, that also underscored Hong Kong's potential as a regional wine hub.
"While there was a healthy appetite, bidding was civilized and certainly more restrained than May. Overall though the results were very solid," Kapon told Reuters.
While many "superlots" were sold, they often barely scratched their low estimates, including 12 original wooden cases of Domaine de la Romanee Conti of assorted vintages from 1990-2001, that fetched $274,700 including the buyer's premium.
An original case of 1990 La Tache was sold for $118,600 -- again near its reserve price, while a case of 1992 Screaming Eagle, the first vintage of California's rarest wine, attracted spirited bidding and went for $112,384.
A special 30 lot consignment from the famed cellars of top Swiss collector Wolfgang Grunewald, was also completely sold.
Acker's strategic push into Asia is partly a attempt to capitalize on Hong Kong's decision to abolish its 40 percent wine duty earlier in the year, in a much-hyped bid to develop itself into an Asian wine hub along the lines of London and New York.
Kapon, who noted sentiment in its U.S. wine sales had noticeably cooled of late, is nevertheless upbeat on Asia, with two further Hong Kong auctions planned early next year.
"Buyers in Hong Kong are leading the way as far as demand goes for the world's finest wines, it's stronger than anywhere else at the moment,
"Things may go down, but when the market gets tough, the tough get buying and we saw that today," Kapon said.
Reporting by James Pomfret