Sotheby’s Wine Auctions Reach $65 Million in First Half of 2019

Last Thursday, Sotheby’s Wine concluded its spring 2019 live auction sales with an outstanding worldwide total of $65 million – the highest-ever Q1+Q2 total for the company since we began auctioning wine in 1970. Outshining Sotheby’s Wine’s previous record first-half by 23% (achieved in 2011 and 2018), this important milestone arrives on the heels of a record-breaking 2018, which saw full-year wine sales significantly exceed $100 million for the first time.

Jamie Ritchie, Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s Winesaid: “The continued strength of the fine wine market, combined with the trust of some of the world’s greatest collectors who have chosen to both buy and sell their wines through us, has resulted in another record-breaking live auction season, with first half sales of $65 million — more than 20% ahead of any previous year and more than any other auction house. Our auctions dedicated to the cellars of four renowned collectors accounted for over two thirds of our sales, and we look forward to presenting at least four dedicated offerings in the fall. With Jonny Fowle joining the team as our first Spirits Specialist, we are excited to expand our spirits offerings in the coming months. While our auction sales continue to capture the attention of the public, it was wonderful to see our retail business recognized as Fine Wine Retailer of The Year by The Drinks Business Awards, following similar accolades from the Wine-Searcher Awards last year. We have many exciting plans for the new auction season, which we look forward to announcing later this summer.”

Below are some of the moments that contributed to Sotheby’s Wine’s success in the salesroom and at retail this spring:


  • During Sotheby’s spring sales series in Hong Kong, a new world record was established for any series of wine sales when a four-day suite of offerings brought a combined total of HK$273.1 million / US$34.8 million, against a combined pre-sale estimate of HK$168-239 million / US$22-30 million. Comprising almost 2,900 lots of legendary wines and spirits, the sales achieved a combined sell-through rate of 98%.


  • Leading the sales series was Tran-scend-ent Wines, which realized an outstanding HK$234 million / US$30 million – a new world auction record for any private wine collection. Two thousand and seven hundred lots were sold across the three-day sale, led by Romanée Conti 1990 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, with three 12-bottle lots selling for HK$2,728,000 / US$347,520 each; a 12-bottle lot of DRC’s Romanée-Conti 1985 achieving HK$2,356,000 / US$300,131; and three 12-bottle lots of Mouton Rothschild 1945 bringing HK$1,984,000 / US$252,742 each. The strong results underscored the continued demand for wines from Burgundy: Domaine de la Romanée-Conti has led Sotheby’s Wine’s Annual Market Report as Top Producer every year since the company began its annual rankings in 2013.


  • The April auction of Finest & Rarest Wines totaled HK$39.5 Million / US$5 Million, led by a very limited-edition Hong Kong Reunification with China Memorial Moutai 1997, comprising 12 half-litre bottles. Part of a spectacular 50 lots of Kweichow Moutai – the largest offering of Moutai to be offered by Sotheby’s to date – the group sold for HK$806,000 / US$102,757. Overall, the collection was 100% sold and brought a combined total of HK$9 million / US$1.1 million.



  • Sotheby’s wine auctions in New York concluded with the third and final offering of limited-edition Château Mouton Rothschild Versailles Celebration Cases. All 75 of the Celebration Cases made available were sold, for a grand total of $2.7 million. Full proceeds from the Hong Kong and New York tranches will benefit the restoration projects at the Palace of Versailles. Proceeds from the cases that were sold in the London auction, originally intended to fund restoration projects at Versailles, will be donated jointly by Versailles and Château Mouton Rothschild towards efforts to rebuild the historic Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.



  • The June sale of Finest & Rarest Wines achieved $3 million (£2.4 million) – our highest total this year for a London wine auction, with 1,109 lots sold across two days. Top Ten available upon request


  • The Sotheby’s Wine team continues to grow, with the recent appointment of Jonny Fowle as the company’s first-ever Spirits Specialist. Based in London, Fowle is responsible for driving Sotheby’s expansion into the whisky and spirits market. In this newly created role, he will pursue single-cellar sale opportunities and direct consignments of high value bottles and casks, while building on Sotheby’s online spirits auction business.


  • Fowle’s appointment follows the recent blockbuster results for spirits in the US, UK and Asia. In addition to the 50-lot collection of Kweichow Moutai sold in Hong Kong, last October Sotheby’s Wine established a new world auction record for any spirit sold in North America, when The Macallan 1926 60 Year Old Sir Peter Blake Label achieved $843,200 in New York. Most recently, a single bottle of The Dalmore L’Anima, Aged 49 Years sold for £108,900 ($140,350) in a London online-only sale. The exclusive bottle was made as a collaboration between famed chef, Massimo Bottura, and Richard Paterson, The Dalmore’s renowned Master Distiller. Proceeds from the sale of the one-of-a-kind scotch whisky will benefit Massimo Bottura and Lara Gilmore’s non-profit organization, Food for Soul.



  • Continuing the strong momentum for spirits, Sotheby’s Wine will present an online-only auction dedicated to whisky and Moutai. Open for bidding from 21 June – 5 July, Whisky + Moutai Online will offer more than 50 lots by some of the biggest names in spirits, including The Macallan, the legendary Karuizawa and Kweichow Moutai.


  • In addition to auction sales, Sotheby’s Wine Retail is expanding its offering of spirits in both its New York and Hong Kong stores. The increase follows a particularly strong first quarter in 2019, which saw a growth of 21% in both locations.