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Auction news: May 2011

Burgundy bacchanal

BYOB meant two things at La Paulée de New York: bring your own bucks and bring your own bottles.

The dollars bid at Zachys’ two auctions timed for the Paulée (but not part of it) flowed like the Burgundies at the $1,400-a-ticket (£870) dinner.

Daniel Johnnes’ bacchanal, inspired by the post-harvest La Paulée de Meursault and held in Manhattan every two years since 2000, drew Burgundy acolytes from distant points domestic and foreign, along with 33 producers themselves.

On 10 February, all 929 lots in a Burgundy-heavy catalogue were sold, for $2,721,956, against a pre-sale estimate of $1,691,650– $2,589,100. On 11 February, all 620 lots in a nearly all-Burgundy consignment from Robert Caine, a Virginia collector, brought $3,486,434, against a projection of $1,798,100–$2,754,450.

For the investors, speculators and gourmands present, it seemed as easy to part with bank accounts at the Michelin three-star Restaurant Daniel, where Zachys held the sale, as it was to share Burgundy’s finest and rarest with friends and strangers at the Paulée’s communal-tables banquet in a pavilion downtown.

Johnnes is wine director of the impresario chef Daniel Boulud’s Dinex Group, which includes Restaurant Daniel and the wine-oriented Bar Boulud, whose cellar emphasises Burgundy. Dinex also manages (but doesn’t own) Bar Boulud in the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park hotel, in London.

In the gilt-edged setting, both auctions registered a contagious acquisition fever. Among Caine’s lots, Jean-François Coche’s wines excited bidders – as did his presence, and that of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s Aubert de Villaine (Decanter Man of the Year 2010) at the dinner.

A case of the legendary 1996 Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne ($24,000 high estimate) grossed $45,980; a case of 2000 Corton-Charlemagne ($22,000) drew $30,250. A dozen bottles of 1982 Meursault-Perrières ($18,000) fetched $43,560.

Four bottles of 1962 DRC Richebourg ($15,000) found $22,990. Three bottles of 1996 DRC Romanée-Conti ($24,000) grossed $33,380.Eight bottles of Comtes Lafon’s 1996 Montrachet ($15,000) went for $22,990 and four bottles of its 1992 Montrachet ($9.500) found $14,520.

In another Montrachet popularity contest, five bottles of Domaine Leflaive’s 1991 ($18,000) fetched $24,200. Two bottles of 1992 ($8,500) found $13,310. A Domaine Ramonet methuselah of 1990 Montrachet ($20,000) finished at $25,410. A case of 1978 Georges Roumier Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses ($24,000) attracted $36,300.

Among magnum lots, a 1966 Clair-Daü Musigny ($2,200) brought $6,050, and a 1978 Dujac Bonnes-Mares ($5,000) reached $8,470.

But not everything exceeded high estimates: a jeroboam of 1959 Armand Rousseau Clos-St-Jacques Gevrey-Chambertin ($17,000–$30,000) brought $19,360.

Both auctions saw successful bids from China. Even more bids from China are likely in the next Paulée, in San Francisco, Johnnes’ major alternate city, in 2012. Unsurprisingly, he plans a Hong Kong Paulée.

Bordeaux leads Burgundy by a nose in Hong Kong’s auctions, but, as China’s high-rollers know, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay noses shift in seconds. Partly it’s a matter of dollars and scents.

Written by Howard G Goldberg

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