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Hong Kong fine wine auction falters

From Saturday to Sunday, April 9 to 10, 2011, Christie's International offered a "Tour of Bordeaux" with exceptional Wines from The SK Networks Collection and a "Superb Collection of Rare Pétrus and Mature DRC".

This auction of "Finest & Rarest Wines" went unsold for around one-third of total lots.

For the first time, in a recent period, unsold lots of fine wines reached a level which may signal a downturn in the Chinese buyers' appetite.

Is it a sign that the Chinese market is giving a break to the spectacular strong demand recorded over the last 2 years? Or are Chinese buyers becoming more selective? Or is it a first sign that luxury in china is entering a new era?

In the world's second largest luxury goods market, a new ban on some luxury themes in outdoor advertising takes effect from April 15th, according to an announcement on the website of Beijing's industry and commerce bureau.

This move could prove authorities' willingness to have more control on luxury products' promotion and consumption in order to avoid showiness which could arouse popular resentment.

Social stability may be at stake in this new policy of controlling more strictly the promotion of luxury goods. Fine wines are entering this category and Chinese buyers may have already anticipated a move which could have an impact in the future consumption of expensive wines. At this stage, the trend is not clear but scrutinizing next auctions' results should give more insights on which direction the market takes.

David Elswood, head of Christie's international wine department, said: “The sales in Hong Kong over the two days of 9 and 10 April demonstrate a growing diversification in Asian buyers’ collecting tastes and buying habits. In addition, the New York sales on April 9th show a healthy comeback for the US market.

" Together these overall results prove that demand for wines of the highest quality and provenance remains very strong around the world, and Asia remains a fast-moving and increasingly sophisticated market.”

Charles Curtis, MW, head of wine for Asia at Christie's, commented: “Our sale on April 9th and 10th saw continued growth in demand for older vintages, such as the superb collection of 60 years of Château Mouton-Rothschild from 1945 to 2005 (estimate: HK$400-600,000, sold HK$960,000), and an emerging interesting in the rarest Burgundies, in particular vintages from Romanée-Conti and La Tâche.

"While Asian buying made up the majority of our top lots, the extensive worldwide bidding, especially for the very top end of the spectrum, signals a welcome recovery of the global wine market and the attraction of Christie's Hong Kong wine sales as an important platform for international buyers to acquire the finest and rarest wines."

April 2011

1 April 2011 - Guillaume Jourdan, Wine Insight News Economics