New Emissary

Laughing With Lafite

Wine sales in Hong Kong should fetch over $15 million this season – thanks to one brand.

Although initial estimates were that about $15 million worth of wine would be snapped up by buyers in Hong Kong during the current wine auction season, total sales actually look likely to be far higher than that.

The paddle-raising began with a bang over the weekend, with Christie’s International reporting $6.2 million in sales for its 2-day auction—where an 18-bottle lot of 2000 Lafite alone sold for $54,000. The Wall Street Journal was quick to suggest why Château Lafite Rothschild’s Bordeaux is so coveted in Asia these days, which interestingly, includes the simplest of reasons: ‘Lafite’ is easier to pronounce than other longer wine names.

Meanwhile, Acker Merrall & Condit’s sale on September 17 and 18 generated an even higher total sales figure: $8.8 million. Lafite again did well, prompting auction director John Kapon to draw the unique comparison: ‘Lafite gets stronger each month, like a well-fed Godzilla.’

Of course, Asian buyers are not rushing home to pop the corks of their precious new bottles any time soon. These wines are generally known to be bought and kept as investments, in the growing ‘liquid gold’ business. Chinese newspaper People’s Daily reports that buyers are boasting, ‘Buy two cases of en primeur. Drink one and have another two for free,’ in reference to the sharp appreciation in wine values evident across the current market.

And what about Christie’s big rival Sotheby’s? Its moment is still to come. The auction house will next month be putting nearly 2,000 bottles of Lafite, covering a 139-year span, on the block with estimates for sales currently at about $2.5 million. If last weekend is any guide, it might want to set its sights a little higher.