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DRC, Opus One hit new highs in Asia

Asia's fine wine buyers have served a reminder of their financial muscle, with Christie's claiming a new auction record for Domaine de la Romanee-Conti in Hong Kong and rival Sotheby's selling a 100-case collection of Opus One to a buyer in China.

Christie’s auctioned a 12-bottle lot of 1978 vintage DRC in Hong Kong for HK3.67m (US$476,405), in what the auction house said is a world record auction price for the renowned Burgundy estate.

A second 12-bottle collection of the 1978 vintage sold for HK2.33m, still more than double the high estimate of HK1.1m that Christie’s had set for each of the two lots. In total, the auction fetched HK69m (US$9m).

A few days earlier, the retail division of rival group Sotheby’s sold a 100-case collection of California’s Opus One to an unnamed buyer in mainland China for US$165,000. It is thought to be the largest amount of Opus One to appear on the market at one time.

The sales are a reminder of the interest that Asia’s wealthiest continue to have in top wine, at a time when fine wine sales in general have stalled in China and the success of Wally’s debut auction in New York last week had thrown the global auction spotlight back onto the US.

Simon Tam, head of wine in China for Christie’s, said his company’s auction also offered more evidence of buyers stretching their palates. Bordeaux and Burgundy fetched the top prices, but ‘it was extremely gratifying to see wines from the legendary terroir of Champagne, Spain, Barolo and Australia reach new levels alongside the classics’, Tam said.

On the Opus One sale, Sotheby’s president and chief executive of wine for the Americas and Asia, Jamie Ritchie, told decanter.com that ‘what we are seeing still [in China] is interest in rare and mature wines’ – even if the more recent Bordeaux vintages have struggled for momentum in the country.

The Opus One wines, which spanned vintages from 1997 to 2005, ‘are rare and ready to drink’, he said. There was also interest in the collection from the US and India.

More broadly, demand for mature vintages from top estates appears to remain strong in several countries. At a Christie’s New York auction earlier this month, a 12-bottle lot of the prized 1959 vintage from Chateau Lafite fetched $44,100, more than double the auction house’s top estimate of $20,000.

Written by Chris Mercer

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