Sale of historic Russian wine fails to attract bidders

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  • Monday 6 December 2004

A sale of historic wines from Ukraine’s Massandra collection failed to excite interest last week at Sotheby’s in London: 63% of the lots failed to sell.

The total generated by the sale was £149,391 – well short of the pre-sale estimate of £500,000. Stephen Mould and Richard O’Mahony, experts in charge of the sale, said, ‘We were disappointed that the enormous press and public interest in the sale did not translate into bids today.’

The top price paid was £4,140, for a lot of two bottles of 1913 Madeira-style wine from the collection of the Tsar. Two wines fetched the highest single bottle price of £2,990: an 1894 Livadia Liqueur Cabernet Sauvignon and an 1895 Livadia Rose Muscat, both from the collection of the Tsar.

But many more historic bottles failed to attract a single bid above the reserve price. ‘It’s heartbreaking,’ O’Mahony told decanter.com, ‘This is a true vinous connection with the past.’

The Massandra winery was built at the end of the nineteenth century to supply Tsar Nicholas II’s summer palace, Livadia.

The wines have been offered for sale only three times before – and with far greater success than was seen today.

Sotheby’s does not believe that today’s result is indicative of any general sign of weakness in the market, but O’Mahoney reckons it is symptomatic of the sluggish market for sweet wines.

‘The market for Port and Sauternes is currently slightly depressed. Perhaps this helps to explain today’s outcome. It is sad that these beautiful wines are so under-appreciated,’ he said.

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