All that glitters isn't gold, some of it is wine

Tue Aug 17, 2010 11:35am EDT
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By Leslie Gevirtz

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Like gold, top wines are highly prized, represent wealth and are selling near their historical highs.

Prices of the five premier cru Bordeaux -- Chateaux Lafite Rothschild, Haut-Brion, Margaux, Latour and Mouton-Rothschild, and the grand crus of Burgundy, particularly Romanee-Conti, are at or above 2007 levels.

"During times of economic stress and worry, buyers look to safe investments and gold is seen as a defensive strategy. It's tangible, has intrinsic value and is a good diversifier ... The same can be said for the top growth Bordeaux and for the same reasons," said Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, an independent wine consultant.

"With markets such as China coming on board with eyes only for the top growths, it is a promising outlook for them."

Promising for the auction houses, too.

Sotheby's four Hong Kong wine auctions last spring were successful, according to Robert Sleigh, the company's vice president of wine. "Obviously, Asia continues to drive the prices in wine."

Christie's wine auctions in London, Hong Kong, New York, Geneva and Amsterdam, had sales of $13.9 million in the first half of the year, up 18 percent from the same period a year earlier. Asian wine buyers represented 43 percent of the sales figure, Christie's spokeswoman Erin McAndrew said.

Christie's is starting its fall season early with its first auction on Sept 18 in Hong Kong followed less than a week later by another in New York, according to Charles Curtis, its head of wine sales.   Continued...

<p>Bottles from a lot of 70 "Four Centuries of Chateau Lafite Rothschild" bottles, which includes bottles between 1799 and 2003, are displayed during a news conference in Hong Kong March 24, 2010. The lot fetched $320,250 at a fine and rare wine auction in the city on March 26 and 27, 2010. REUTERS/Bobby Yip</p>