May 31, 2008

The Acker auction in Hong Kong

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Coinciding with Vinexpo being held in Hong Kong this week, Acker conducted their first wine auction in Hong Kong today.

I am not sure that Hong Kong has ever seen a wine auction like this. The all-day auction, which went from 10am to past 7pm, featured 922 lots of wine. The Bonham's auction in April had a mere 246 lots, and the Christie's auction in 2000 featured 330 lots.

I stopped by to take a look at the action after lunch. I had no intention to buy any of the wines so I never bothered to register to bid. I have never bought at a live auction, and the recent incident with the withdrawn lot of old Ponsot wines from an Acker auction didn't exactly instill a lot of confidence in me. I spent most of the afternoon sitting with friends who had paddles but were too disciplined to win any lots against buyers with deep pockets. As we knew the value of many of these wines, we would shake our heads and laugh at the futility of bidding whenever people got carred away and the hammer price went through th high pre-sale estimates.

My new friend Cecilia was in attendance, having completed her task of promoting the wines that she makes in her family winery. She was the winner of the two cases of '45 Mouton on offer, each for HKD 1MM or more. As her husband is a large collector of DRC, she was happy to snap up quite a few rare lots as well. I was surprised that she didn't raise her paddle for the OWC of '90 Romanee-Conti...

Towards late afternoon the crowd thinned out, and some of the lots began to sell for the open bid or failed to find buyers. My friends eventually won some of the lots they tried to bid on. As for myself, even though I did not register, I ended up bidding (and winning) an old and rare magnum for the opening price by borrowing my friend's paddle. Of course, 2 minutes after the hammer went down, I started to suffer from buyer's remorse. I hadn't done my homework because I never planned on bidding. In fact I don't even have a catalogue and borrowed one from a friend. But the wine was from a good vintage, was in magnum form, said to be in good condition and from a great estate. So although there were no scores from wine critics whatsoever to support the high estimate, my emotions got the better of me and I did exactly what I did not wish to do...

The success of the Acker auction has already been well documented. I can see that the world's auction houses (and wine merchants) will increasingly shift their focus to Hong Kong and Asia. I do not think, however, that Hong Kong will overtake London as a wine trading center any time soon.

P.S. I didn't have to take the wine in the end... not sure what happened with Acker but maybe someone else decided to take it... anyway, good for me.

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