Rare white burgundies from Christie's Fine and Rare Wine sale in Geneva in November 2018.
Photo: Christie's

Why 2018 Was a Record-Breaking Year for Wine Auctions

Major sales at top houses made this a bullish year for wine connoisseurs

Over the past year, some of the world’s most prestigious wine labels have passed through the auction block and oenophiles have responded in a major way. Auction houses from New York to London, Geneva, and Hong Kong boasted impressive wine sales, with a number of bottlings setting new world records. (Sotheby’s alone sold $88 million worth of wine—a 77 percent increase from 2017.)

“2018 was an amazing year for fine and rare wine, with demand increasing to unprecedented levels for many of the world’s most collectible wines as more and more people continue to discover the greatest beverages on Planet Earth,” said John Kapon, chairman of Acker Merrall & Condit Companies, which closed the year with $105 million in auction sales.

A bottle of Romanée Conti 1945, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti set a world auction record for a bottle of any size at an October auction at Sotheby’s New York. Photo: Courtesy of Sotheby's

In October, Sotheby’s New York hosted a two-day wine auction that sold more than 1,100 bottles for a total of $12.3 million. Grandes dames of the auction included two exceptional bottles of Romanée Conti 1945, each of which topped the previous world auction record for a single bottle of wine of any size. When the hammer fell, the bottles sold for $558,000 and $496,000. The entire white-glove auction of rare Domaine de la Romanée-Conti was culled from the personal collection of Robert Drouhin, a former head of the Burgundy house Maison Joseph Drouhin, and totaled $7.3 million—in excess of five times the auction estimate. (The previous record was set in February 2007, when a bottle of Château Mouton Rothschild 1945 sold for $310,700 at Sotheby’s New York.)

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The personal cellar of Robert Drouhin also produced noteworthy wine sales, including three bottles that broke previous records for a single magnum bottle. Three magnum bottles of Romanée Conti 1937 each sold for $310,000—more than seven times the $40,000 auction estimate—while three bottles of La Tâche 1945 each achieved $99,200, and another trio brought $82,666 per bottle.

A lot of 12 bottles of Château Latour 1945 sold for $135,600 at a Christie’s auction in Geneva. Photo: Courtesy of Christie's

A lot of 12 bottles of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Romanée-Conti 1988 was sold in London at Christie’s for $362,880—the second-highest sale in the wine and spirits category at the auction house. Earlier in the year, another 12-bottle lot of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Romanée-Conti 1988 sold for $332,640, while a lot of six bottles went for $166,320.

At Christie’s Hong Kong, a lot of 12 bottles of Henri Jayer, Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux 1999 sold for $136,955, while at the auction house’s Geneva location, 12 bottles of Château Latour 1945 sold for $135,600, and a 12-bottle lot of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Montrachet 1986 went for $120,960 in London.

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