April 15, 2009 / 9:04 PM / 10 years ago

Time to stock cellar? Fine wine prices drop again

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - The price of fine wines declined by 1.2 percent in March, according to the Liv-Ex 100, the index that tracks 100 collectable wines.

The news, announced on Wednesday, comes in the middle of the fine wine auction season with Sotheby’s, Acker-Merrill, Christie’s and Zachys’ holding sales in the next two weeks.

The flood of fine Bordeaux, vintage Champagnes, and an unusual bounty of Burgundy comes as Liv-Ex had more bad news for wine sellers.

For the year, the index was up 1.3 percent, but remains down 18.2 percent from a year ago. By comparison, the S&P 500 was down 3.1 percent for the first quarter of ‘09, and off 34.7 percent from a year ago.

“Prices had risen to nearly unsustainable levels last spring,” Sotheby’s Senior Vice President of Wine Jamie Ritchie said in an interview.

He acknowledged that current auction prices reflected the global economic downturn as well as the current supply.

“The prices have returned to what one would call more usual, more in line with the historical norms for these Grand Crus. And they provide an excellent entry point for buyers,” Ritchie added.

Sotheby’s is estimating that its April 18 New York sale of 1,500 lots will fetch up to $2.6 million. The sale includes selections that can be had for as little as $3 to as much as $7,000 a bottle.

Hart Davis Hart’s March 28 auction in Chicago, which featured the sale of single cellar filled with French classic wines, sold all of its 590 lots for $2.7 million - exceeding the auction house’s presale high estimate of $2.4 million.

At that auction, a case of 1978 Montrachet Domaine Romanee-Conti sold for $45,410 or $3,783 a bottle.

In a 2001 auction at Sotheby’s, seven bottles of the same white wine fetched $167,500, or $23,929 a bottle.

“It comes down to knowing when to buy and what to buy and how much to buy and how much to pay,” said Judy Beardsall, a fine and rare wine consultant, who will have more than 200 lots of wine in Christie’s April 25 auction in New York.

Editing by Patricia Reaney

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