Wine auction sales top $350 million

Tue Dec 28, 2010 6:04am EST
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By Leslie Gevirtz

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Auction houses sold more than $350 million worth of wine worldwide in 2010, an amount roughly in line with or exceeding their pre-recession levels of 2007.

And all of them credited their sales in Hong Kong or Asian buyers for the spike in sales figures.

Sales in Asia were "particularly robust" said John Kapon, president and auction director of Acker Merrall & Condit, which reported total sales of $98.5 million for 2010.

"Hong Kong has now overtaken New York as the world's largest wine auction center," Kapon said.

Acker Merrall was the latest house to report following those of Sotheby's, which auctioned off more than $88 million worth of fine wines and Christie's which said it had sold $71 million.

Christie's head of wine sales in North America, Charles Curtis, is surrendering that title to take over the auction house's operations in Hong Kong beginning in January.

"In Asia one must have a nuanced view of the market. Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore there are relatively mature buyers. But in mainland China, there are the characteristics of a newer market," he explained.

"In newer markets, they tend to focus on the topline stuff first," Curtis said, which explains why sales of premier cru Bordeaux, such as Lafite-Rothschild and Haut Brion, have skyrocketed.   Continued...

<p>People attend the fine wine auction at Christie's in Geneva in this November 16, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud</p>