Liquid Assets

Liquid Assets

 

 

 

 

Liquid Assets

By Roman Kraeussl

Published: September 1, 2011
Wine, one of the fastest-growing luxury sectors, has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in auction sales over the past few years, with houses notching record totals. Christie’s, for instance, saw its wine sales triple from 2000 to 2010. Exploding interest from China in elite labels has given the market a massive boost, but so has the increasing number of buyers around the world who are stockpiling bottles as investments, particularly premier cru Bordeaux from such venerated vintners as Château Pétrus and Château Lafite Rothschild. A look at the auction results from 2000 through 2010 at nine of the leading houses in the field—Artcurial, Bonhams, Christie’s, Hart Davis Hart, Skinner, Sotheby’s, Tajan, the Chicago Wine Company, and Zachys—shows that the average price per bottle has increased over the past 10 years, most sharply since the mid 2000s. The fact that the rise continued, and even steepened, in 2009, when the total amount spent on wines decreased in the aftermath of the financial crisis in 2009, indicates a flight to quality.
TOTAL WINE SALES AND AVERAGE BOTTLE PRICES 2000-2010
As the graph demonstrates, from 2000 to 2010 the average price per bottle doubled, to more than $1,000. For the coveted 1982 Lafite, the average bottle increased in value 10-fold, from $726 in 2000 to a staggering $7,235 in 2010.
BREAKDOWN OF BOTTLES SOLD BY COUNTRY
BREAKDOWN OF BOTTLES SOLD BY COUNTRY
French wines dominate the auction market, but California and Italy control major shares. Spain and Germany constitute a significant part of the Other category.
Bordeaux—home to Château Lafite Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild, and Château Pétrus—captures the majority
of the top prices; Burgundy, which produces less wine, accounts for a small but prestigious portion, with elite vintners like Romanée-Conti and Montrachet. The dependable
vines of such regions as Tuscany, Piedmont, Riesling,
and Rioja form the Other category here.
Bottles of 1990 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti went for $26,000 apiece at Christie’s New York in May 2010.
10 MOST EXPENSIVE WINES, 2000-2010 (.75 LITER BOTTLES)
The strongest markets are for post-1970 vintages, mostly because the older wines are in shorter supply and many have passed their peak drinkability. Note that some of the dollar figures given are for bottles sold individually—like the winner, a 1985 Montrachet—while others are the per-bottle prices for cases (12 bottles) or lots of 3 or 6.
10 MOST EXPENSIVE HISTORIC WINES, 2000-2010 (.75 LITER BOTTLES)
A smaller sector of the market, historic bottles have fetched some phenomenal sums. These legendary wines have performed particularly well in auctions in China, with 6 of the 10 highest prices realized at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in October 2010.

 

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"Liquid Assets" originally appeared in the September 2011 issue of Art+Auction. For a complete list of articles from this issue available on ARTINFO, see Art+Auction's September 2011 Table of Contents.

 

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