Red wines bridge cultures for Valentine's Day

Tue Feb 9, 2010 11:13am EST
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By Leslie Gevirtz

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Valentine's Day coincides with the start of the Chinese New Year this year which may explain why so many red wines have been fetching astronomical prices at recent auctions.

Both celebrations involve giving gifts and red is an especially auspicious color in Chinese tradition.

Auction houses sold more than $17 million in wines in January, mostly top growth Bordeaux and Burgundies. Many of the buyers were from Asia.

At Sotheby's Hong Kong auction, a six-liter bottle of 1982 Chateau Lafite fetched nearly $47,000. At Acker Merrall & Condit's two-day auction in the same city a dozen bottles of 1982 Chateau Petrus sold for $85,400, or about double its pre-sale estimate.

John Kapon, Acker's president, said he saw "strong participation by Hong Kong, mainland and Taiwanese buyers."

In Chicago, Hart Davis Hart's online auction sold six magnums of the 1982 Petrus for $71,700. or more than double its pre-sale high estimate. Bidders were predominantly from the United States but also from China, Singapore and South Korea.

"Red is the color of happiness in Chinese culture and red is also the shade of Valentine's Day," said Belinda Chang, sommelier at The Modern, the acclaimed restaurant adjacent to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

"The Chinese are indeed drinking more wine than ever and coming strong in the Bordeaux market," she added.   Continued...

<p>Maria Elizabetta Fagiuoli pours a glass of wine during the Vino 2010 Italian Wine Week event in New York, February 5, 2010. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton</p>