Billionaire and famed wine collector Bill Koch’s wine cellar is up for auction at Sotheby’s in a three-day sale happening now. Koch is selling about 20,000 bottles with an estimated range of $10-$15 million. But don’t worry, he’ll still have plenty to drink since he’s only selling about half his famed collection.
I attended the live auction at Sotheby’s in New York yesterday. In the large auction room where numerous famed art pieces have sold, bidders turned out in person and online/phone to get a piece of the action. Jamie Ritchie, president of Sotheby’s wine Americas and Asia, and Eli Rodriguez, vice president, called the 914 lots starting at 10 AM and continuing without interruption until bidders had a crack at them all. Even though the bidding took place in dollars, the current bid was displayed in no fewer than six currencies that ticked higher with each increment.
The most celebrated lot of the day was 10 bottles of 1945 Mouton Rothschild, which sold for $343,000 (including buyer’s premium). To convert that into something other than the six currencies on the board, that’s about the price of three Teslas, or $1,372 per ounce. Swirl that in your mouth for a minute–but please, don’t spit.
Other notable wines yesterday included ’59 Haut-Brion and ’61 Palmer. There will be over 2700 lots during the three days; check out the lot listing online but the hard-bound, 500+ page catalogue is a work of art itself. Interestingly, the write-ups rely exclusively on Serena Sutcliffe’s comments about the wines and eschew point ratings of any kind from any critic.
The cellar has tremendous breadth and, given Koch’s litigious and crusading ways, bidders seemed to be enthusiastic, with many lots making a mockery of the estimates even in some of the lower-priced lots (yes, some Bordeaux lots sold in the $1,000 range). There’s something for everyone: perhaps the lowest-priced lot yesterday was a 12-bottle case of Gibson, Barossa Vale Shiraz 2002 for $368 (including buyer’s premium). And, yes, the wine comes under screw cap. Read more…
Wine auctions around the world ticked higher in 2014. But auction hammers were coming down the fastest in the US, which surged 26 percent according to data aggregated by Wine Spectator.
They report that global wine auctions halted two years of declines to grow at a 4.5% rate to $352 million; the US accounted for $159 million, up from $126 million last year. Globally, Hong Kong sagged 7% while UK and Europe slumped 26%. Hong Kong retains the crown though as it bested NYC with $104 million in sales vs $84 million for New York. In the US, Hart Davis Hart in Chicago was the leader with $42.8 million in sales but Wally’s, a newish entrant, saw strong growth rising to third in the US thanks to the consignment from collector Roy Welland, which fetched about $11 million.
Online auctions tallied up $46 million in sales with winebid.com the leader. Despite occurring in the US, these do not figure in the US auction total as compiled by Wine Spectator.
Sotheby’s was the wine auctions 2014 leader with $65 million in sales worldwide. Click here to see the handy table from WS in PDF.
Representatives from several auction houses commented that Burgundy had displaced Bordeaux as the top wine. DRC led the way but Domaine Leflaive, Rousseau, Comte de Vogüé, and Louis Jadot were among the Burgundy producers seeing significant volume.
As a Burgundy enthusiast, I lament the rise in interest of the region’s wines since there is relatively little wine to go around. We’ll see if auction interest ticks up for village wines given the low harvests in the region the past few vintages. Probably not, but the prices will undoubtedly escalate at shops anyway as others clamor for a taste of the precious pinot and chardonnay. For 2015, it will be interesting to see if the US remains the top market given the strong dollar. Probably.
On a related note, for the two major auction houses, Christie’s and Sotheby’s, wine is a mere canapé for the main course of art and collectibles. Driven by art pieces, Christie’s global sales rose 12% to $7.7 billion while Sotheby’s grew 18% to $6 billion according to Bloomberg. Christie’s is a unit of Artemis, owned by French billionaire Francois Pinault (who also owns Chateau Latour in Bordeaux, Domaine d’Eugenie in Burgundy, and Araujo in Napa). Sotheby’s trades on the NYSE with the ticker BID.
President Francois Hollande has many notale differences from his predecessor. But the one that most concerns us: he actually likes wine.
So it may come as somewhat of a surprise that he is trimming the presidential wine cellar, putting 1,200 bottles–about 10 percent of the stash–on the block. But at least it’s for a good cause since the sale at the end of May will go toward a cellar rehab.
The cellar has some gems, as you might expect, including 1990 Petrus. But all the wines have the patina of the state functions. Virginie Routis, chef sommelière of the Palace, made the selections about which wines to put on the block. Kapandji Morhange will start the sale on May 30.
Thanks to a 2012 posting on La Feuille de Vigne, we have some intel on who liked what at the Elysée:
* Charles De Gaulle created the wine cellar
* Madame Chirac had a weak spot for Pauillac wines, which explains why they are overrepresented.
* St. Estephe? The site credits these selections to Mitterrand.
* Burghound? That was Valérie Giscard d’Estaing who was a member of the Chevalier du Tastevin. Read more…
In a talk, the renowned innovator and leading protagonist of molecular gastronomy laid out what’s happening at the new El Bulli Foundation, the successor to the famed restaurant. The sprawling project includes a museum at the site of the El Bulli restaurant outside of Barcelona, a center in the city (“El Bulli DNA”) which will host 20 chefs as interns, and an online knowledge base known as “El Bullipedia.” It’s set to open March 15, 2015.
For one fleeting month of the year, the center in Barcelona will provide dining experiences (they will not take reservations). Half the seats will be to students and others as a form of social work. The other half will be allocated to members, with membership capped at about 200. “The first who have the chance to become members will be those who have helped us through the auctions in New York and Hong Kong,” Adria told the group in the large hall on the seventh floor at Sotheby’s. Members will also be able to spend a day with the creative team.
Along with Adria were two sommeliers from the restaurant who continue to work with the foundation. I asked them about the challenge of pairing wine with such unusual dishes. David Seijas said it was a “nightmare” pairing wines with the food since, among other factors, diners were presented with 50 (!) courses in a meal during the last year of the restaurant. Aside from the sheer number of dishes, he said a challenge was to follow the unconventional ordering which could zigzag from vegetables to seafood to game and back again with diners never knowing when a sweet course was coming or even if it would be the end. “There is no order,” he said, “there is only Ferran’s order! He loves surprises.” Read more…
Want to drink from a 12-liter bottle of Domaine Serene with William Shatner? Or get lessons from the cast of Dancing with the Stars at the Bel Air home of Ann Colgin? Or stay at a Napa vintner’s guest cottage and drive his Porsche 911 convertible around for a month? Or attend the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes with 5L Napa cab in tow? Then get ready to start bidding at Naples Winter Wine Festival in January. The event is a charity auction run by Naples Children and Education Foundation. Selected lots follow after the jump: Read more…
Just when the wine auction market’s froth appeared to be blowing off, the fine wine world is bracing for some foam.
El Bulli, the famed restaurant where the entire season used to book up in minutes and futuristic dishes paraded before diners all night long, closed last year (but will reopen as the ElBullifoundation). Now, wine-searcher.com reports that the owners will be selling off the contents of the restaurant’s wine cellar.
The collection has many mature wines and it remains to be seen what the estimated 10,000 bottles will fetch at an upcoming Sotheby’s auction. But perhaps the big question for bidders as well as chef Ferran Adria and his partner Juli Soler is whether they will apply the same creativity in the sale as they did in the kitchen. Thirteen-year-old albarino may fetch one price, but what about doing the food-wine pairing for collectors and selling an essence of oyster and albarino microfoam served on the half shell? Or an orb of Corton-Charlemagne lobster? Or reformed into already-fermented grapes with “with their mad sphere-making gadgets and such“? With such an imprimatur, the wines would be harder to counterfeit.
Checking in with the fine wine market, a few datapoints:
* Lafite-Rothschild still commands large dollar amounts, but the bloom may be coming off the rose. Liv-Ex chronicles recent softness in Lafite prices. Perhaps the Asian buyers are no longer willing to pay exorbitant premiums to other Bordeaux wines. Of note, a case of 1961 La Mission Haut Brion just sold for US$59,000 in Hong Kong last weekend.
* Interest in Burgundy appears to be increasing. DRC just hit new highs in London and New York.
* But spreads remain across venues with Hong Kong buyers paying on aver 48% more for DRC than in New York. As a reminder, shipping a case shipping a case of wine from NY to HK costs less than $50.
SIPPED: boom times
Wine auctions brought in a total of $408 million, nearly doubling the 2009 take according to Peter Meltzer. Hong Kong boomed, with $165 millon in wine auctions, surpassing New York’s $154 million. According to the article, the five largest auction houses by wine gross are: Acker worldwide, Sotheby’s worldwide, Christie’s worldwide, Zachys worldwide, and Hart Davis Hart Chicago. The highest price paid for one 750ml bottle was $232,692 for 1869 Lafite. Bottoms up!
Chinese Central Television, an outfit not known for investigative journalism, has outed 30 wineries practicing wine adulteration in Changli County of Habei Province, leading to their closure. [ShanghaiDaily.com]
SIPPED: the stuff of sitcoms
Not all the “hot” wine was mulled over the holidays: two thieves broke into rapper 50 Cent’s Connecticut mansion; one was found in the closet drinking wine from his cellar. [People]
SIPPED: the hard stuff
A Napa vintner is distilling sauvignon blanc vodka and selling it as varietal and vintage. After six distillations, is there really any trace of either? [winesandvines.com]
SIPPED: the free stuff
Samples of wine and spirits can now be poured in California grocery stores. Happy shopping! [sacbee.com]
SPIT: basement dwellers
The WIne Advocate publisher asserts that “two dozen troublemakers,” basement-dwelling, “generally single men” led to eBob paywall. He also hints at his heir apparent. [winebersekers]
SIPPED: wine frontiers
Remember those vines planted in Norway? Well, now there are also vines planted in Tanzania, specifically the flat area around Dodoma (come on, Arusha, where’s cuvée Kilimanjaro?). [allafrica.com]