Asian collectors fuel wine buying spree

Tue Jul 19, 2011 8:02am EDT
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By Leslie Gevirtz

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Wine collectors, particularly from Hong Kong, bought more than $200 million worth of fine wines at auction in the first half of 2011, nearly doubling the amount for the same period last year.

But while the buying opportunities have expanded, prices for individual bottles have stabilized.

"The rate of price growth has definitely slowed," said Jack Hibberd of Liv-ex, the indices of fine wines. "Lafite has certainly hit a plateau."

A case of Lafite Rothschild, depending on vintage and provenance, has been selling for $12,000 to $20,000 for the last five months, he said.

Christie's auction house sold $46.8 million of fine wines - many of them the top five growths known as Premier or Grand Crus - for the first half of the year -- a 125 percent increase in sales over the same period last year.

Sotheby's auctioned $53.1 million of wines during the same time period, which represented a 43 percent rise in volume year-on-year.

Buyers in Hong Kong bought more than half of the wine sold by both houses, toppling New York from its perch as the market leader.

"The market in Hong Kong is growing year after year. The pie is getting larger. There are more and more collectors," Charles Curtis, Christie's head of wines for Asia, said.   Continued...

<p>Auctioneer John Kapon, president and director of auctions for Acker Merrall &amp; Condit, takes bids from people at the restaurant Marea and bidders online at a rare wine auction in New York in this March 19, 2011 file photo. REUTERS/Mark Dye/Files</p>