Acker Merrall & Condit sold US$8.2m (HK$64m) worth of wine in its China debut on Saturday.
The ‘sale was a landmark event in the history of the wine market in Asia,’ said John Kapon, Acker’s president and auction director.
But it wasn’t the first auction in a dawning fine-and-rare-wine era in China. Bonhams sold US$1.5m of wine in Hong Kong in April.
Acker’s all-day auction, in which gross exceeded the high estimate by more than 10%, was attended by more than 300 in Hong Kong’s Island Shangri-la Hotel.
It followed Vinexpo Asia-Pacific, visited by some 8,000 wine-and-spirits professionals.
Seeking to beat Singapore and Tokyo to the punch as a prime world market for trading, shipping and storing wine, Hong Kong’s government cut its 40% tax on wine to 0% in February.
Until now, most Asian wine investors have bought and sold in London and increasingly in the US.
Acker’s top lot, a case of 1990 Romanée-Conti, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, fetched US$242,308 (HK$1.89m). The price included a 21% buyer’s premium – US$42,000 (HK$327,600) – which Acker announced would go to victims of the Sichuan Province earthquake.
Acker sold 92% of about 922 lots. The New York City-based house will offer about 1,000 lots in Hong Kong on 22 November, Kapon said. Perhaps two auctions per year will follow, he indicated.
Most of the registered bidders came from Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China. ‘The profile of our Asian customers so far and their purchasing habits have been very top end – the best of the best of the best,’ Kapon declared.
Six magnums of 1945 Mouton Rothschild fetched US$163,350 (HK$1.3m), and 12 bottles of 1945 Mouton brought US$151,250 (HK$1.2m). A case of 1982 Le Pin fetched US$102,850 (HK$822,800).
Single magnums of 1976, 1973 and 1966 Dom Pérignon Oenothèque each fetched US$90,750 (HK$726,000).
Twelve bottles of 1989 Pétrus went for US$66,550 (HK$532,400). A case of 1982 Lafite Rothschild and a Lafite imperial of that vintage each fetched US$48,400.00 (HK$387,200).
Asian wine consumption rose 60% to US$7.4bn from 2002 to 2007, according to free-market Hong Kong’s trade development board. Vinexpo projected that the regional wine market was expected to grow 8% yearly until 2011 as against 1% growth globally.
As for auctions, ‘the wine world just got a lot smaller, and we look forward to helping bring it together even more in the future,’ Kapon said.
Michael Davis, vice chairman of auctioneers Hart Davis Hart, in Chicago, called the auction ‘impressive’. He added, ‘No doubt this is a tremendous development in Asia. Anyone in the business will take a long hard look. It’ll take a few months – not one auction – to gauge the effects.’
Davis said that Hart’s own contingent of Asian bidders has grown in its own recent auctions.
Written by Howard G Goldberg in New York