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Sotheby’s hits record wine and spirits auction sales in 2021

Collectors’ thirst for rare Burgundy and Scotch whisky has helped drive wine and spirits auction sales to a record $132m this year, Sotheby’s has announced.

Sotheby’s said wine and spirits auction sales rose by around 44% to $132m (£99.6m) in 2021, boosted by record prices, fresh partnerships and a wave of new buyers.

Its figures also offered more evidence of a strong fine wine market this year.

Wine represented $111m of Sotheby’s 2021 auction sales, with famous Burgundy labels dominating a list of best-selling lots.

Other highlights included a recent sale of Châteaux Rauzan-Ségla and Canon wines, sourced direct from the Chanel-owned estates in Bordeaux, which fetched $2m at the end of October – versus a pre-sale high estimate of $1.5m.

Spirits made up $21m of the 2021 sales total, led by rare Scotch whisky and underlining the category’s emergence as a mainstream fixture of the global auction market.

Jamie Ritchie, worldwide head of Sotheby’s Wine, said, ‘2021 will be remembered as a transformative year in Sotheby’s wine and spirits business, where we repeatedly broke records in all areas of our business and launched new initiatives and partnerships across all categories and geographies.

‘Our highest ever sales total of $132m included market leadership in Asia, with $67m [in sales],’ he said, adding the group saw ‘a slew of record prices for both wines and whiskies’.

The group previously reported wine and spirits auction sales of $92m in 2020, and $118m in 2019.

Around 40% of wine and spirits auction buyers in 2021 were new to the scene, and one third of bidders were aged under 40, Sotheby’s said. It added that it generated more than $20m in auction sales for charity partnerships in 2021.

Sotheby’s said its 10 best-selling wine lots for 2021 were:

  • Pièce des Présidents – Corton Renardes Grand Cru, sold for $900,000 (Hospices de Beaune 2021 auction)
  • Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Romanée Conti 1990 (9 bottles) – $450,590
  • Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Romanée Conti 2000 (1 methuselah) – $404,600
  • Henri Jayer, Cros Parantoux, Vosne Romanée 1989 (6 magnums) – $386,520
  • Henri Jayer, Cros Parantoux, Vosne Romanée 1990 (6 magnums) – $354,310
  • Henri Jayer, Cros Parantoux, Vosne Romanée 1999 (12 bottles) – $354,310
  • Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Romanée Conti 1971 (12 bottles) – $305,070
  • Henri Jayer, Cros Parantoux, Vosne Romanée 1995 (12 bottles) – $289,010
  • Domaine Leroy, Musigny 1990 (12 bottles) – $289,010
  • Henri Jayer, Cros Parantoux, Vosne Romanée 1995 (12 bottles) – $289,010

The top five spirits lots were:

  • Glenfiddich, The 1950s Collection – $1.4m
  • Kweichow Moutai ‘Sun Flower’ 1974 (24 bottles) – $1.4m
  • The Dalmore, Decades No. 6 Collection – $1.1m
  • Talisker, Cask of Distinction 1978 (plus artwork by Callum Innes) – $831,780
  • Black Bowmore, Archive Cabinet Direct From Bowmore – $563,000

The past year has seen Sotheby’s partner with the annual Hospices de Beaune auction for the first time.

Sotheby’s has also launched auctions in France more generally, and said the country will become a fourth ‘international hub’ alongside New York, London and Hong Kong.

In 2022, Sotheby’s has said it will begin a three-year partnership with Napa Valley Vintners (NVV).

According to NVV, this will begin with the ‘Napa Valley Library Wine Auction’ – featuring vintages sourced from top wineries and running from 18 to 29 January.

Sotheby’s said the partnership would include in-person and online auctions, as well as other ways for collectors to connect with Napa wineries. ‘At Sotheby’s, we have seen increasing demand for the wines of Napa over the past 10 years,’ Ritchie said in November.

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