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Sotheby’s hails success of Drouhin direct cellar auction

Auction house Sotheby's is keen to hold more ex-cellar sales of Burgundy after the sum raised from a 2,000-bottle cache of Maison Joseph Drouhin wines significantly beat estimates in New York.

The Drouhin family cellar. Image: Sotheby’s

The Drouhin auction, dubbed a once-in-a-generation event by the maison itself, fetched $930,694 against a pre-sale high estimate of $645,500, Sotheby’s said. Around 79% lots topped their high estimate, while all lots were sold.

Sotheby’s’ head of New York auctions, Duncan Sterling, told decanter.com that the result reflects buyers’ deepening interest in Burgundy, as well as their reverence for ‘perfect provenance’.

Top collectors had been warmed up for the weekend sale at a special dinner attended by Frederic and Laurent Drouhin, president of the family firm and head of its US business respectively.

On the day itself, a full salesroom and a record 90 online bidders competed for the wines, which included three bottles of Chambolle-Musigny Amoureuses 1961 that fetched $8,575 – including buyer’s premium – versus a top estimate of $2,750.

The highest price paid was for six bottles of Musigny 1978 in an original wooden case, which almost doubled a pre-sale high estimate of $10,000, selling for $19,600. Twelve bottles of Chambolle-Musigny Amoureuses 1985 sold for the same price.

‘It was our first major sale of wines direct from the cellars of such an important house in Burgundy,’ Sterling said.

‘We would love to do more of these [kinds of sales],’ he told decanter.com. ‘But, it’s more a question of have particular domaines put aside a certain amount of vintages that they would be willing to commit to auction.’

A lot of Burgundy producers ‘are selling a good part of their production every year’, he said. Small production in 2011, 2012 and 2013 have put an even greater strain on supplies for some producers.

Alongside the Drouhin sale, Sotheby’s also held a finest and rarest wines auction. Combined, the sales fetched $3.2m against a high estimate of $2.7m, with 74% of lots beating their pre-auction top estimate and 98% sold by lot.

With three quarters of buyers based in North America, Sterling said the sale constituted a promising start to 2014 for the New York and US fine wine auction scene.

Usual suspects dominated the upper echelons of the non-Drouhin section of the auction, with a single, six-litre methusaleh of Domaine de la Romanee Conti La Tache 1990 securing top lot status after selling for $73,500 on a high estimate of $70,000.

Mature Bordeaux continued to show steady demand, despite the malaise around more recent vintages. Twelve bottles of Lafite Rothschild 1982 sold for $42,875, against a high estimate of $35,000.

This article was updated at 1300 GMT on 11 March to clarify that 79% of Drouhin lots beat their high estimate.

Written by Chris Mercer

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