Sotheby’s claims world record at auction

Sotheby's/Aulden Cellars ended their 2001 auction year by setting a new world record with bidding fireworks that soared above the US$4 million mark.

The partners’ 1 December finale in Manhattan realised US$4,285,738 (£2,857,159) in an exciting money’s-no-object sale that, Sotheby’s declared, set a world record for white burgundy at auction.

The record lot, seven bottles of 1978 Montrachet from the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, fetched US$167,500 (£111,667). That comes to US$23,929 (£15,952) per bottle. The lot’s low and high estimates were US$7,000 (£4,667) and US$10,000 (£6,667).

Jamie Ritchie, senior vice president of Sotheby’s wine department, said in a press release, ‘We are delighted to have ended the year with the highest grossing wine sale worldwide in 2001. This result, together with our year-ended total, confirms our position as the market leader in the US wine-auction business.’

Sotheby’s sold a total of US$22,873,752 (£15,249,168) in wine in 2001, with an average lot price of US$2,154 (£1,436), a 35% increase over 2000. (Its arch rival, Zachys Christie’s, plans a 13-14 December sale in Los Angeles, which will end its 2001 auction cycle.)

In all, 95% of 877 lots were sold, 53% of them above the high estimates. The low and high pre-sale estimates for the entire catalogue were US$2.43 million (£1.62 million ) and US$3.31 million (£2.2 million).

The sale was billed as Two Magnificent Cellars, part of Sotheby’s program of ‘limited-owner sales.’

The first cellar, heavily dominated by First and Second Growth Bordeaux in a range of formats, grossed about US$1,590,450 (£1,060,300). The second cellar, also strong in beautifully chosen claret, did far better – about $2,695,289 (£1,796,859).

Pétrus was a goldmine. A half-dozen 1982 magnums brought US$24,150 (£16,100); the high estimate was US$18,000 (£12,000). A case of 1961 Latour brought US$24,150 (£16,100), vaulting past the top estimate. And a case of 1961 Latour à Pomerol attracted US$89,400 (£59,600), also surpassing the high estimate.

Eleven bottles of 1982 Le Pin found US$36,800 (£24,533), way beyond the US$18,000 upper estimate. A dozen bottles of 1961 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage la Chapelle took in US$48,875 (£32,583), above the high estimate.

A case of 1989 Romanée-Conti, with a US$24,000 (£16,000) top estimate, sold for US$35,650 (£23,767). And a case of 1985 Leroy Mazis-Chambertin, Hospices de Beaune, Madeleine Collignon, high-estimated at US$18,000, found a buyer at US$27,600 (£18,400).

Among the antiquities, a double magnum of 1865 Lafite, high-estimated at $35,000 (£23,333), went for US$29,900 (£19,933). And a magnum of 1870 ‘Glamis Castle’ Lafite (originally bought by the 13th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne), carrying a US$20,000 (£13,333) high estimate, found a new owner at US$20,700 (£13,800).

Auction diary dates and contact information

Written by Howard G Goldberg in New York3 December 2001