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Wine Searcher: A round-up of the key trends in the fine wine auction scene in 2013

by Rebecca Gibbs (reprinted from Wine Searcher) | Feb 28, 2014

As the hammer came down on the last of the year's wine auctions, the most coveted lots of the weekend came as no surprise: Domaine de la Romanée Conti, Henri Jayer and Petrus were the most fiercely-contested producers, reflecting this year's appetite for rare Burgundy and the Right Bank.

Indeed, the key auction trends in 2013 have been Burgundy and perfect provenance, according to a Wine-Searcher survey of the world's major auction houses.

While most auctioneers are yet to tally their totals for 2013, Chicago-based Hart Davis Hart has already announced its annual total is up 37 percent on 2012, notching up $36.1m in auction sales. However, that figure still falls short of its 2011 total of $37.4m. Nevertheless, HDH claims that it will be the number 1 auction house by value sales in the U.S. in 2013.

Following Sunday's Hong Kong auction, Acker Merrall Condit's managing director of operations, Truly Hardy, told Wine-Searcher  "We can now predict with certainty that Acker Merrall & Condit will yet again finish as the Number 1 wine auction house in the world for 2013 with an estimated $63.5m in sales achieved."

The Acker total is a significant reduction compared to previous figures: in 2011 it achieved $110.5m, and boasted the highest sales of all auction houses. However, that figure fell 25 percent in 2012 to $83.3m, being narrowly pushed from the highest-earner spot by Christie's.

The highest-grossing rival auction houses Sotheby's and Christie's are yet to release their estimates, having completed their final auctions of the year over the weekend.

Trends for 2013

If you've been following the auction scene this year, it'll be no surprise to discover that Burgundy and perfect provenance are the words on the lips of the key auctioneers.

"DRC has been on fire for a few years," said Marc Smoler, marketing manager, Hart Davis Hart, "but Burgundy wines from all producers are now setting records at every level."

Jamie Pollack, managing director of Zachys North America, selected some of the top performers: "Burgundy has continued to reign supreme in worldwide demand for the top wines: DRC, Dujac, Leroy, Roumier and Rousseau are examples of the most in-demand domaines," she said.

Per Holmberg, head of wine, Christie's Americas, named other domaines including Comte Georges de Vogüé, J-F Mugnier and Méo-Camuzet. Nevertheless, greater diversification has also been an interesting development. We had two very strong sales of Barolo," noted Holmberg. "Furthermore, there has been increased interest in Californian wines, our online only sales, and the annual Hospice de Beaune charity wine auction."

When it comes to storage history, perfect provenance has becomes increasingly important.  A number of auctions were dedicated to wines sourced direct from producers' cellars this year, including Moët & ChandonVega Siciliaand Château Haut-Brion, with many lots smashing estimates.

Pollack added: "A focus on provenance has surged with buyers becoming more educated in understanding the importance of how the wine has been stored and where it was purchased."

Who's buying?

Private Asian buyers have generally been the most wiling to part with the highest sums for the most sought-after names: DRC, Jayer and Petrus, for example.

However, "we are seeing more Americans coming back in the market," said Holmberg.

And it's not just North Americans. Central and South American fine-wine buyers have been on the rise for a number of years but they garner little media attention with eyes firmly focused on the Asian market.

Brazil is a market that is exciting auction houses, with a fine wine culture developing. "Our business in Latin America, particularly from Brazil is growing," said Smoler. "With the emergence of technology and online bidding, more and more collectors in South America are buying at U.S. auctions." Expect to see more growth from Brazil as well as Columbia and Mexico, he predicts.

We aim to keep our clients up to date with the latest industry news and share with them our own opinions. This section covers all things wine: producer interviews, market movements, auction results, tasting notes and vintage updates. Our intention is to be incredibly selective and only provide commentary on areas which we believe are relevant to our clients and their interests. Should you have any questions about the content , please contact Hannah on or +44 (0) 20 3017 2293. 

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