The raising of yet another substantial sum, £1.4m, at Sotheby’s final wine sale of the year in London, took the auction house’s sales for 2016 to as much as £59.2m (US$73.75m). That represents a remarkable 22% increase for the New Bond Street outfit, capping what has been an annus mirabilis for anyone who invested in fine wine this time last year.
Expressions of delight from auctioneers are naturally to be expected, and Stephen Mould, Head of Sotheby’s European wine operations, did not disappoint in this respect. But, as he pointed out, a total above the high estimate was achieved from the Dec 14 sale.
“That demonstrated the continuing strength of our London wine auctions,” he said. “Domaine de la Romanée-Conti commanded the top prices, while bidding for blue-chip Bordeaux remained solid throughout the sale. Dom Pérignon 1996 was flying over its estimates. Elsewhere, a great selection of Coche Dury exceeded expectations.” Lafite (1982), Mouton (1989) and Petrus (1989 & 1998) sold particularly well.
James Ritchie, worldwide head of Sotheby’s Wine, is optimistic about the prospects for next year. “The market for rare wines that are ready to drink continues to be very strong,” he declared, “while younger wines are maintaining their prices and are reasonably stable. We expect strong demand to continue in 2017 and look forward to announcing a strong series of sales.”
One single sale ‘redefined the auction landscape’ according to Sotheby’s. That was when a staggering $21.9m was raised after William Koch, the American billionaire’s wine cellar, was put up. That sum was the same as Sotheby’s total sales for the year in Hong Kong, and $4m more than their total in London for 2016. Accordingly, New York was by far the house’s biggest earner, netting $33.9m in sales.
Meanwhile, merchants have been casting their eyes ahead to 2017. “Inevitably, the 2015 Burgundies will do well when released now and into January,” Oliver Hartley, sales director for Corney & Barrow, predicted. “Customers are expecting prices to go up. I think the wines will sell well, and it’s a good vintage. Bordeaux ’16 could be a very interesting vintage. And I think we’ll see Italy do well on fine-wine side next year.”
Simon Staples, Asia sales director of Berry Bros, agreed. “Generally, we have continued with our impressive growth in Northern Italy and Spain,” he said, “but Bordeaux has come back with a vengeance and has gone a tad bonkers since the Brexit vote. It shows no signs of abating and with the glorious 2015 Burgundy vintage in January, I think demand and prices will continue in the right direction until at least spring 2017.
“All levels of Bordeaux have done well but demand has continued in favorites such as Lynch-Bages, Figeac, Gruaud, Grand Puy Lacoste, Giscours, Haut-Bailly. Of the first growths Lafite has remarkably bounced back far more than I thought possible. Latour and Mouton follow. Champagne Grandes Marques have done very well too.”