When celebrities sell wine [Lloyd Webber]

“Lloyd Webber to auction wine collection to affluent Asians,” read the headline on Reuters.

I posted about it over on the Dr. Vino Facebook wall. Reader Richard Henshaw commented there, pointing out that this wasn’t the first time that Lord Lloyd Webber had sold wine at auction and that when he had his first sale, many of the wines that were auctioned were, in fact, young wines. Henshaw writes “I remember thinking that this was a novel way for a celebrity to monetize his fame. (Suckers beware!)”

Indeed, this 1997 article from Slate (wait, State was around in 1997?), shows the premiums buyers paid over retail, sometimes on the order of 100%.

Ah, a mere 100%!? Given that Lafite 2009 futures were just snapped up at four times retail it will be interesting to see what premium this smaller collection that includes ’05 Mouton and Lafite achieves in January in Hong Kong. It may make Lloyd Webber laugh. Or make him cry. But it won’t be better than Cats (for him, financially).

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5 Responses to “When celebrities sell wine [Lloyd Webber]”

  1. Here’s what I wrote about the Lloyd Webber sale back in 1997 in Wine Spectator:
    July 31, 1997

    London’s Lloyd Webber Sale Is a Smash Hit


    It had only a two-day run, but the $6 million sale of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s wine cellar at Sotheby’s shattered several international records. The 18,000-bottle collection, auctioned in London on May 20 and 21, attracted a cast of gilt-edged wine collectors from all over the globe, plus an astonishing 12,000 absentee bids. The sale achieved the highest total ever for a wine auction and saw prices exceed their high estimates by more than one-third.

    “The Lloyd Webber collection represented a unique combination of quality, quantity and provenance,” observed Serena Sutcliffe, head of Sotheby’s international wine department. “The breadth and depth of the offerings were tremendous. Storage conditions were pristine. The icing on the cake was Lord Webber himself. Everybody wanted some of this wine, which explains why the sale was virtually 100 percent sold.”

    One of the most visible buyers was master sommelier Barrie Larvin, wine director of the Rio Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. He snapped up the evening’s showstopper, a super-lot dubbed “The Millennium Dream Cellar,” for $397,000. Comprising 348 bottles in various formats, its contents ranged from three double magnums of Château Pétrus 1970 to a case of Vieux-Château-Certan 1947 to a 750-ml bottle of Château Margaux 1900.

    Larvin, who also picked up substantial case lots of vintage Champagne, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Burgundies and first-growth clarets, arrived in London with a glamorous mission–and a seemingly unlimited checkbook. His goal was to bolster the Rio’s 28,000-bottle cellar with blue-chip wines he could readily merchandise. “We’ve already designed Andrew Lloyd Webber wine baskets and a special wine list based on the sale,” he said. Talk about advance planning.

    With so many high rollers competing for a share of Lloyd Webber’s “tannic pets” (as the composer liked to describe his prized bottles), snaring a lot required a bit of luck and a plethora of pounds. A dozen bottles of Château Latour à Pomerol 1947 and a case of Château Cheval-Blanc 1947 each set auction records at $57,730 (including the 10 percent buyer’s premium). Six magnums of Pétrus 1947 commanded an identical price. They all went to an anonymous buyer whose agent bid for them on the floor.

    “It’s unbelievable,” exclaimed New Jersey collector Isaac Perry, as six magnums of Château Margaux 1945 fetched $22,550, 120 percent above its first quarter 1997 average in the Wine Spectator Auction Index. His incredulity was even greater when six magnums of Château Pichon-Longueville-Lalande 1982 sold for $8,700, a full 200 percent above the average. Nevertheless, that did not prevent him from acquiring several bottles of châteaus Margaux and Yquem 1900.

    May-Eliane de Lencquesaing, proprietor of Pichon-Longueville-Lalande, said she was surprised by the lofty hammer prices commanded by the magnums. “We still have some stock at the château which we will release shortly,” she remarked. The unanswered question, however, was the price.

    With Château Mouton-Rothschild 1982, Château Haut-Brion 1989 and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Richebourg 1990 all trading around 40 percent above their respective auction averages, how will the results of the Andrew Lloyd Webber sale impact future auctions? “It would be anticipatory to jack up prices based on these results,” insisted Sutcliffe. “Bidders paid a premium because of a special set of circumstances that are unlikely to be reproduced.”

    At least until someone comes up with a sequel.

    –Peter D. Meltzer

  2. Hi Peter,

    Thanks for posting that. It’s interesting to see the surprise then at the hammer prices, which seem to have raised an eyebrow as much as the Hong Kong prices do today.

    Funny, too, in your piece to see that commission used to be a mere 10% when they are now around 20% (often, on both buyer and seller). Are we to assume that the cost of being an auctioneer has doubled in that time?

    And as to the sequel, now you’ve got it!

  3. What Cult wines would you splash out for…if any?

  4. […] that included such suggestions as “Rent … no maybe we should buy.” With the Andrew Lloyd Webber wine auction coming up this weekend, I wondered on Twitter if we needed some #winemusicals? I proposed […]

  5. […] bidding The auction of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s wine in Hong Kong grossed $5.6 million, surpassing estimates. Sotheby’s cited the […]


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