Asians snap up fine wine in soft auction market

Mon Jun 22, 2009 7:54pm EDT
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By Leslie Gevirtz

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Asia is saving the fine wine auction market.

Asian buyers bought the three highest grossing lots at Christie's June 6 auction in South Hampton, New York, including spending $16,900 for a 12-bottle case of 1982 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild.

And at Sotheby's New York auction, it was an Asian collector who bought a case of 1990 Le Pin for $48,400, more than double its pre-sale estimate of $12,000 to $20,000.

Jeff Zacharia, president of Zachys auction house, viewed the wine auction market as "an early indicator that the worst is over. The prices seem to have bottomed out at the beginning of the year and now there seems to be an upward momentum."

Zachys' Hong Kong sale saw two cases of 1989 Chateau Haut-Brion, which had been expected to sell for no more than HK$100,000 ($12,900), go under the hammer at HK$114,950. ($14,831).

Prices, which had been off as much as 40 percent in the last half of 2008, are coming back, according to Jamie Ritchie, head of wines at Sotheby's New York.

"They're now down between 20 and 25 percent, so they've recovered a bit. And we're seeing fierce competition in Asia," he said.

American and British collectors were credited with running up Bordeaux prices in the years just prior to the global recession.   Continued...