Friday’s Lafite Ex-Cellars Auction in Hong Kong amassed a colossal £5.3 million, topping a pre-sale estimate of £1.6 million. But despite the day’s excesses, exuberant bidding continued on Saturday at the Bordeaux Collection from SK Networks Auction, which saw 634 lots sell for £6.3 million in just one-and-a-half hours. Though the sale featured consignments from all of the First Growths, demand for Lafite was preeminent. Vintages sold at around 1.8 times their current market price, albeit at an average of 25% lower than the previous day’s prices.
Although the premium's paid for Lafite at the ex-cellars sale (where vintages came complete with a specially produced back label) can be put down to the auction's exceptional provenance, those prices realised at the SK sale are harder to quantify. Particularly when you consider the results from other recent auctions in the region. The table below shows Lafite vintages that sold at all of the last four auctions held in Hong Kong, alongside their current prices. Whilst October's auctions saw extremely high pricing, it is interesting to note that the two auctions held in September realised prices somewhat closer to the market.
Lafite 2003, for example, which changed hands at around £12,250 at a Zachys sale in Hong Kong on the 11th of September, fetched £31,130 at the ex-cellars auction on Friday, before descending to £21,400 on Saturday. The chart below (which is taken straight from the pages of Liv-ex Cellar Watch) shows Lafite 2003's auction results against recent Liv-ex trades. As you can see, Friday's sale generated some of the most unpredictable buying to date.
This extreme price volatility makes it difficult to predict the long-term effect that these recent auctions will have on secondary market pricing. Are they an abberation, or a taste of what's to come?
In the short-term at least, the auctions have resulted in increased demand for Lafite on the exchange. The 2009 vintage in particular, which traded at £10,950 on the 26th of October, reached £12,777 per 12x75cl case on Sunday, reflecting a rise of 17%.
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For an in-depth look at the fine wine market in the Far East, including an interview with David Elswood of Christie's on the HK auction scene, view the Drinks Business China Report.