One of the most keenly anticipated auctions of New York's fall-winter season has surprised observers by falling far short of the expected revenue.

Morrell’s auction of a cellar of Bordeaux that it priced at US$8m grossed US$5,080,817 (€5.2m) Seventy-five percent of the 2,384 lots were sold.

The sale last Friday and Saturday at the Four Seasons restaurant in Manhattan, featured what Morrell called ‘the largest private Bordeaux wine collection ever to be sold at auction.’

The revenue shortfall surprised observers because no auction had been more flamboyantly advertised in recent memory. The auction was seen generally as the most significant of Manhattan’s fall-winter season, and as a litmus test of market interest in rare and fine claret at a time of economic doldrums.

The highest grossing wine was a jeroboam of 1961 Pétrus. Estimated at US$28,000 to US$35,000, it sold for US$28,750 (€29,211). Not far behind, a six-magnum lot of 1961 Latour, estimated at US$18,000 to US$22,000, went for US$24,150 (€24,537).

Nikos Antonakeas, Morrell’s managing director, declined to identify the consignor. But wine industry sources identified him as Georges Marciano of Beverly Hills, California.

Many wines were sold at, or just above, the low estimates. So many were passed that Jeff Zacharia, the president of Zachys, a wine emporium in Scarsdale, New York, that soon will hold independent auctions, said Morrell had partly mishandled the sale.

Zacharia felt that too many young clarets were offered at a time when the market could not absorb them, and said Morrell should have offered them piecemeal over a period of time.

Antonakeas said, ‘I’m not worried that the market was not able to absorb all the Bordeaux. There will always be a next time.’ He allowed the possibility that some might turn up at Morrell’s 16 November auction. The catalogue for its its 19 October auction is virtually closed, he said.

Written by Howard G Goldberg in New York23 September 2002