Sotheby's wine sale draws Asia buyers despite turmoil

Sun Oct 2, 2011 12:02pm EDT
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By Farah Master

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Plunging global markets, the sovereign debt crisis in Europe and deepening fears of another world recession failed to dampen Asian buyers thirst for vintage wines at Sotheby's October wine auction in Hong Kong.

The two-day event held October 1-2 put rare Imperials of Chateau Lafite, Latour and Cheval Blanc and Jeroboams of Mouton and Haut Brion under the hammer, as well as a selection of Lafite from the Rothschild's private cellars. The sale raked in $12.7 million in total.

The wine auctions bode well for the rest of Sotheby's autumn sale that includes fine art, jewelry and rare porcelain, a week-long event that is being closely watched as a barometer of Asian demand for luxury goods at time when economic gloom is spreading globally.

New York-based Sotheby's said its first day sale, the eighth part of the long-running Classic Cellar of a Great American Collector, sold all bottles, fetching a total of $3.5 million, just under Sotheby's highest pre-auction estimate of $4 million.

One of the auction highlights was the sale of 12 bottles of 1990 Chateau Petrus at $43,436.

While Chinese investors have made headlines over the past year paying record prices for fine vintage wine particularly Lafite, Robert Sleigh, head of Sotheby's Asia wine department, said the market was getting smarter and more sophisticated, with

prices leveling out after huge gains over the past two years.

"In 2011 the estimates have caught up with the prices," Sleigh told Reuters, adding that some lots were sold at the lower end of forecasts due to some buyers being more cautious.   Continued...