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DRC helps Sotheby’s break sales records in 2018

Sotheby’s wine and spirits sales have broken through the $100 million barrier for the first time in a single year, driven by a world record auction price and the seemingly inexorable rise of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

Burgundy, mature Bordeaux and Scotch whisky led Sotheby’s wine and spirits sales across auctions and retail to a new high of $100m in 2018, said the company this week. Auction sales ‘surged’ by around 50% versus 2017 to reach $98m, it said.

There was little surprise to see Burgundy’s Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC) topping a list of the best-selling wine estates and distilleries for sixth consecutive year.

But, even for the fabled DRC, this was some demonstration of supremacy on the fine wine scene.

Total DRC sales across auctions and retail at Sotheby’s doubled versus 2017, rising to $24m in 2018 – more than the combined sales of its three nearest challengers. The other estates making the top 10 were:

  • Petrus, $8m in sales
  • Lafite Rothschild, $7m
  • Latour, $7m
  • Mouton Rothschild, $5m
  • Leroy, $4m
  • Margaux, $3m
  • Haut-Brion, $3m
  • The Macallan, $2m
  • Cheval Blanc, $2m

DRC accounted for 21% of Sotheby’s wine and spirits sales over the 12 months, or roughly one dollar out of every five spent.

Its performance was partly fuelled by Romanée-Conti 1945 setting a new world record for a bottle of wine sold at auction.

Seven Methuselahs of Romanée-Conti 2005 were also sold for $1.5m by Sotheby’s’ retail division in Hong Kong.

More generally, Sotheby’s results show that Bordeaux and Burgundy overshadowed other fine wine regions in its 2018 sales.

‘Both Bordeaux and Burgundy gained share at the expense of other categories, accounting for 88% of our worldwide sales, up from 80% in 2017,’ the auction house said.

Burgundy’s share rose to a record 42%, up from 39% in 2017.

Bordeaux’s share of sales recovered ground to reach 46%, having sunk to 40% in 2017; the first time it the region had fallen below a 50% share.

Sotheby’s said that mature vintages of Bordeaux had driven the revival.

The group also noted a resurgence in demand from Asia-based buyers, who accounted for 63% of purchases by value in 2018, up from 58% in 2017.

Three whiskies made the group’s top 10 lots sold at auction and retail for the year: The Macallan 1926 60 Year Old; The Macallan in Lalique Set and The Yamazaki 50 Year Old from Japan.

Updated 13/02: The seven methuselahs of Romanée-Conti were from the 2005 vintage, not 1945 as originally stated. 

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