Zachys' first solo wine auction has rewritten the rule book - and, collectors say, may put this suburban New York wine store among big league auction houses.

The 25-26 October sale – Zachys’ first after its split with Christie’s last December – realised $3,647,075 (€3,708,404) including the buyers’ premiums. This exceeded the pre-sale high estimate of $3,643,950 (€3,705,567) and far surpassed Zachys’ most optimistic expectations.

Strong prices were achieved across the board, and 1,510 (96.3%) of the 1,568 lots were sold.

Hosting the sale at the four-star Restaurant Daniel, on Park Avenue, enabled Zachys to put haute cuisine and glasses of Champagne, white Burgundy and red Bordeaux on white tablecloths – something never before encountered at commercial wine auctions in America, professionals say.

Zachys copied the comfort-creating tactic from charity auctions, where it is used nationwide to turn such sales into entertaining lunch or dinner theatre and promote expansive bidding.

‘I just met a client I haven’t seen in two years,’ said one collectors’ consultant. ‘Investment bankers can take their jackets off at the tables and spread out. When you’re comfortable, you tend to spend more money.’

A major retail emporium in Scarsdale, an upscale Manhattan suburb, Zachys drew on seven years’ experience with Christie’s to mobilise what looked like a seasoned organisation right from the opening hammer stroke.

The sale was driven by an effervescent Fritz Hatton and high-speed Ursula Hermacinski (pictured above), both formerly of Christie’s and considered by many buyers and sellers as the nation’s finest wine auctioneers. The floor, where sommeliers and merchants’ buyers were out in force, often broke into applause and laughter. The salesroom ranged from 40-80% full.

‘I would guess that 15 to 20% of the buyers were first-time buyers at auction, which is significant,’ said Jeff Zacharia, Zachys’ president.

The top earner, 12 bottles of 1945 Mouton-Rothschild, high-estimated at $75,000 (€76,270), fetched $87,000 (€88,490), while six magnums of 1990 Romanée-Conti from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, valued at $65,000 (€66,115), brought in $69,600 (€70,793).

Twelve bottles of 1982 Pétrus, put at $22,000 (€22,380), attracted $25,520 (€25,957), and a case of rarely seen Henri Jayer Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux Reserve, estimated at $15,000 (€15,257), went for $23,200 (€23,597). Twelve bottles of 1985 Antinori Solaia, valued at $4,500 (€4,577), realised $9,280 (€9,439).

Written by Howard G Goldberg in New York28 October 2002