Christie’s has had an exceptional year so far, with a global sell-through rate of 92 percent and a 118 percent global average hammer over low estimate. Highlights of the year so far have included a stellar line-up of collection sales, including Iconic Wines From Joseph Lau, The Visionary’s Spectacular Cellar – the most valuable single-owner wine collection ever sold at Christie’s, and Generations of Jayer, Burgundy from the Historic Cellars of King’s College, Cambridge. The appetite for the world’s rarest and most prized vinous treasures with exceptional provenance shows no signs of abating.
Direct-from-estate auctions: exemplary provenance
Christie’s has a full schedule of auctions in Hong Kong, Geneva, London and Los Angeles for fall 2022, including many direct from wine estate sales, which always generate excellent results due to the additional allure of late-released wines that have been evolving slowly in the perfect maturation conditions of the estates’ cellars.
Of particular note is the 261 lots of finest and rarest burgundies direct from Domaine Ponsot in Geneva to celebrate its 150th anniversary. The auction, which took place on November 8 and was 100 percent sold, included the opportunity to buy more than 400 rare bottles, as well as a chance to acquire an entire barrel of Domaine Ponsot’s Clos de la Roche “La Cuvée Hippolyte” from the 2022 vintage. The cuvée is named after the current owner Rose-Marie Ponsot’s grandfather and was made specially for the anniversary. The unique cuvée comes from grapes hand-picked from 70-year-old vines planted on the slopes of the land purchased by Hippolyte in 1922.
Other direct-from-estate sale highlights include lots from Ridge Vineyards’ cellars to celebrate its 60th anniversary, with wines dating back to 1964 and a selection of Clos des Goisses Champagne direct from the cellars of Champagne Philipponnat, both being offered in the Christie’s London sale on December 1 and 2. Demand for the world’s rarest wines and spirits remains high.
Fine wine trends
At auction, France leads the way in terms of the value and volumes of wines that are sold in the secondary market, the finest wines originating from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and the Rhône. The popularity of Burgundy remains high, both red and white. At the start of the Burgundy boom, it was the red that proved more popular. But lately, strong demand for Grand Cru whites in particular has led to impressive increases. Famed vineyards, such as Montrachet, Batard-Montrachet & Corton Charlemagne from world-renowned producers, such as DRC, Domaine Leflaive and Coche-Dury, are dominating the market.
At the start of 2022, Burgundy wines from the 2020 vintage year were released en primeur and demand for these wines was extremely high due to a combination of the excellence of the year for both reds and whites, and because collectors were mindful of the next en primeur at the start of 2023, a year in which volumes will be significantly down due to severely restricted yields as a result of spring frosts and challenging weather conditions during the growing season. Buyers this year were keen to secure the 2020 vintage knowing that they might not be able to purchase any of the 2021 vintage.
Champagne performing strongly
Vintage and Prestige Cuvée Champagne are in high demand and also showing strong performance. Supply issues, with less availability of Champagne to meet the bounce back in demand after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted, has led to upward pressure on prices, allied to an increasing awareness among aficionados that Champagnes age extremely well and the top vintage expressions should be laid down for ageing and a fundamental part of anyone’s fine wine collection. Leading the way are the world-famous houses such as Krug, Dom Pérignon, Louis Roederer, Salon, Bollinger and Philipponnat. However, there is increasing interest in the smaller grower producers, which include names Agrapart, Ulysse- Collin, Cedric Bochard, Jacques Selosse, Bereche and others.
France and beyond
There is diversification in the fine wine auction market, with Rhône performing strongly with producers such as Chave and Rayas. The finest wines from Italy are also doing well, particularly the classic Nebbiolo wines from Piemonte’s Barolo and Barbaresco. While visiting the region recently, I discovered the high quality of recent vintages, including the stellar 2006, 2010 and 2016 and the consistency in vintages with fewer less successful vintages, partly as a result of climate change that has led to a loyal following among collectors. The style of these wines has changed over recent times: vintages with a more approachable character; shorter macerations, meaning the tannins are softer; and wines that can be consumed at a younger age. However, in the finest vintages, top wines are at their best at least a decade following harvest.
I anticipate that the fine wine market will continue to perform well in 2023, with an increasing number of wine collectors competing over limited supply of the world’s finest wines.