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Florida wine auction takes pole position over Napa

The Naples Winter Wine Festival has again set an American record for charity auctions.

Bidders at the Florida charity auction on 27 January generated US$16.5m, breaking the 2006 auction’s US$12.2m record.

The festival, in affluent Naples, a resort on western Florida’s Gulf of Mexico coast, has raised US$55.26m for local children’s charities in seven years.

‘When Naples Trumps Napa’ – a headline on a St. Petersburg Times report on the festival – captured the rivalry between the Naples festival and Auction Napa Valley, scheduled for 7-10 June.

For most of its 26 years, Napa’s sale has been the wine world’s premier charity fund-raiser, but Naples’s auction has been surpassing it.

Last year Naples made US$12.2m compared to Napa’s US$8.4m.

In 2005, Naples generated US$11.1m, Napa $10.5m.

The California vintner Anne Colgin, who with some 31 other producers attended what the St. Petersburg newspaper called the ‘spendathon,’ was an auctioneer.

Glitz, glamour, celebrities and a party atmosphere prevailed as the celebrated chefs Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck and Daniel Boulud circulated among about 550 guests, many of them millionaires, under a tent at the luxurious Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort.

Although wine was dominant, other lots included fancy cars and travel and dinner packages. Double magnums of 2001, 2003 and 2004 Pingus donated by Peter Sisseck of Dominio de Pingus fetched US$100,000. A double magnum of 2000 Château Latour donated by Latour went for US$70,000.

In such auctions, philanthropic, status and other social motives join bidders’ customary speculative and drinking reasons that send prices skyward.

Statisticians do not conventionally factor prices paid at these events into comprehensive annual results of commercial auctions.

Written by Howard G Goldberg

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