One of world's priciest wines loses flavor at auction

Thu Oct 30, 2008 12:01am EDT
 
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SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Prices for one of the world's most expensive wines slipped at a New York auction this week as the global financial crisis took its toll despite growing Asian interest in the wine market, according to the auctioneer.

A Sotheby's auction called "An Evening of Exceptional Wines" in New York on Tuesday raised $2.2 million with 70 percent sold by lot. The 190 lots on offer had been expected to bring between $3.2 million to $5.1 million.

The top lot, which was 12 bottles of Romanee-Conti 1990 from the elite Domaine de la Romanee-Conti winery that only produces 400 to 500 cases a year, sold for $151,250, falling short of an estimated price range of $170,000 to $240,000.

Romanee-Conti 1990 is one of the world's most expensive wines, with Sotheby's New York in October two years ago setting a record price of $266,000 for a 12-bottle case of this wine from Burgundy, France -- equivalent to about $22,000 a bottle.

A superlot of four cases of Romanee-Conti 1990 in this week's auction failed to sell for an estimated $700,000 to $1.2 million although the auctioneer said it had received post-sale interest and expected to shortly sell it privately.

Jamie Ritchie, head of Sotheby's Wine North America, said the results were not surprising as the price of wine, particularly at the higher end, has gone through a two-year period of unprecedented increases.

"Not surprisingly, we now see a period of price adjustments," he said in a statement. "It is worth bearing in mind that the prices being achieved in today's market are still significantly higher than they were three years ago."

However Ritchie said the sale did attract important buyers from Asia with the largest buyer from mainland China.

Many high-end wines are finding homes in places like Hong Kong which early this year eliminated a 40 percent duty on wine and is aiming to grow into a global wine auction hub rivaling London and New York.

Demand from Asia, where drinkers are particularly fond of wines from Burgundy growers, has helped support the Liv-ex 100, an index of blue-chip wines which was up 9 percent for the year at the start of October.

(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith; Editing by David Fox)