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Sotheby’s wine and spirits auction sales hit record $159m

Bottles from famous names like Burgundy’s Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Krug Champagne and Macallan Scotch whisky helped propel Sotheby’s to a record total last year, the auction house has said.

Sotheby’s said its global wine and spirits auction sales hit a record $159m (£127m) in 2023, $1m above the total achieved in the previous year.

It’s the third consecutive year that Sotheby’s has reported record wine and spirits auction sales, despite separate data showing that fine wine prices have fallen on the secondary market in the past 12 months.

Sotheby’s said the number of auction lots offered in 2023 rose by 17% year-on-year. It also highlighted how its wine and spirits department has expanded in the past decade.

Total auction sales were $58m back in 2013, and reached $118m in 2019, the year prior to the pandemic, its figures showed.

‘We sold as many wines & spirits by value in one extraordinary week in 2023, as the whole of 2013,’ said Nick Pegna, who last year became global head of Sotheby’s wine and spirits, succeeding Jamie Ritchie in the role.

In a ranking of the best-selling wine producers by total auction sales in 2023, Champagne house Krug entered the top 10 for the first time.

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is a regular fixture in the ranking, but Sotheby’s said auction sales of the Burgundy producer’s wines still rose by 40% year-on-year.

Sotheby’s top 10 wine producers ranking – by total auction sales in 2023

  • Hospices de Beaune: $25m total sales | 17% of total wine auction sales
  • Domaine de la Romanée-Conti: $21m | 13%
  • Domaine Leroy & d’Auvenay: $11m | 7%
  • Petrus: $6m | 4%
  • Domaine Armand Rousseau: $5m | 3%
  • Krug: $2m | 1%
  • Château Lafite Rothschild: $2m | 1%
  • Château Mouton Rothschild: $2m | 1%
  • Château Latour: $2m | 1%
  • Château Haut-Brion: $1.5m | 1%

Auction sales attributed to single-owner collections have seen particularly strong sales growth at Sotheby’s, accounting for $113m last year, up from $99m in 2022 and $75m in 2021.

Sotheby’s’ spirits auction sales, driven by rare whiskies, have also expanded significantly. They hit $33m in 2023, up from $31m in 2022 and $4m in 2017.

Last year’s total included a bottle of The Macallan 1926, featuring a Valerio Adami label, which sold for $2.7m in November – a new auction record for any bottle of spirit or wine.

There were reports of a slowdown in the market overall, however. A rare whisky index published by global consultancy Knight Frank fell by 9% in value in 2023, according to the group’s recent Wealth Report 2024.

Several key indicators also show that fine wine prices have fallen on the secondary market over the past 12 months, amid reports of quieter trading.

Liv-ex, a global marketplace for the trade, said this month that its Liv-ex 100 index rose by 0.4% in value in March, its first monthly rise for a year. Yet, the index was still down by 14% in value over a 12-month period.

Sotheby’s’ Pegna told Decanter late last year that the group saw ongoing strong buyer interest for auction lots that ‘feel well-priced’, with some wines also commanding attention due to their rarity on the market.


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