Stunning fine wine auction results a further indicator of sustained market growth in 2016

Geoffrey Dean

Another month, another rise in value for fine wine. If the upward trend is maintained in December, a new milestone will be set. Never before, since records began in 2011, has the Liv-ex 100 index gone up in every month of a calendar year, but after an increase in each month in 2016, that possibility is a very real one. With Liv-ex’s Fine Wine 50 index (first growths from the first decade of the millennium) also up over November from 332.32 to 334.06, the message is clear: fine wine investment’s inexorable march shows no sign of abating.

Liv-Ex 50 Year to Date

The Fine Wine 100, Liv-ex’s principal market that is calculated at the end of every month, was up 4.83 to 296.19 (its highest since February 2012) in November, a month-on-month increase of 1.66%. Not as much as the July and October gains of over 3%, but a healthy one nonetheless that takes the index’s rise for the year to 23.8% when measured in sterling. The two big upward movers, which each went up by more than 9%, were Taittinger’s Comtes 2004 and Ornellaia 2009. Also showing increases of more than 8% were Leoville Las Cases 2009 and Pichon Baron 2010.

The last monthly fall in the Liv-ex 100, which tracks the hundred most traded fine wines on the secondary market, was as long ago as November last year, which caused the index to finish slightly down for 2015. After four consecutive years of decline, however, it has bounced back resoundingly. The slide of the pound since the Brexit vote continues to be a factor, encouraging buyers with Euros and US dollars to invest.

After Sotheby’s stunning auction results in London and New York in mid-November, it was Hong Kong’s turn to come up with yet more encouraging figures at Christie’s auctions there late in the month. More than 55 million Hong Kong dollars (US$7.15m) were raised when two separate private collections over the weekend of Nov 25-26 were auctioned. A vertical of Mouton Rothschild from 1945-2005 was, unsurprisingly, the most expensive lot.

According to Tim Tiptree, head of sales for Christie’s, “bidding was determinedly dynamic over these two days, which saw strong participation from international clients, especially in Asia.” He added that Christie’s were “delighted to have achieved such pleasing results.”
Christie’s last London auction of the year will take place on Thursday 8 December, and their final New York one a day later. Hart Davis Hart, meanwhile, will be staging a major sale in Chicago from Dec 15-17 of over 4,000 lots with an estimated value of US$6.3–$9.4 million.

Sotheby's Auction

These will include some very old Bordeaux dating back to 1934, with 85 of the region’s leading chateaux on offer. Six bottles of Lafite 1982 have an estimate of $10-15,000. Burgundy will also be very well represented, with multiple lots of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Armand Rousseau, Georges Roumier and Domaine Leflaive. A case of 1959 Grands-Echézeaux, Maison Leroy is predicted to fetch $10,000-$15,000. Three bottles of Henri Jayer’s rare 1985 Cros Parantoux (price estimate $20,000–$30,000) will also be sold.

Some vintage Champagne will likewise be auctioned, including some Dom Pérignon direct from the cellar. Screaming Eagle lovers are expected to pay between $5,000-7,500 for three bottles of the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, while Barolo fans are being asked for between $10-15,000 for a case of Giacomo Conterno’s 1990 Monfortino.

The auction sales are another indicator of the market buoyancy. We will be watching the December sales with great interest in light of the extraordinary growth across 2016 for a further pointer on whether we can expect to see sustained levels of demand run into 2017.