•  Christie's reports record prices
  •  Liv-ex value reaches new high
  •  Bordeaux 2009 prices leap
Asian buyers drive fine wine sales forward

Asian buyers drive fine wine sales forward

Fine wine sales are motoring through the world's fragile economic recovery, driven by Asia-based buyers and excitement around the Bordeaux 2009 vintage.

Last weekend, auction house Christie's saw record prices for some of the most prestigious vintages of the last 40 years at a sale in London.

Its strong results follow news earlier this month that Liv-ex, the global fine wine value index, reached a record high at the end of May.

"The relentless upward movement of fine wine prices continues apace," said Chris Munro, director of Christie's London's wine department.

Among the highglights of the Christie's auction was the sale of six magnums of Romanee-Conti 1971 for GBP71,000 (US$104,640) and a record GBP48,300 for 12 bottles of Petrus 1982.

Liv-ex value plummeted in September 2008 during the collapse of Lehman Brothers at the height of the global credit crunch, but has steadily recovered ground since January 2009. 

Its Liv-ex 100 index value reached 293.5 at the end of May 2010, up 37% year-on-year and ahead of a previous record high of 264 in July 2008.

Asian buyers have increasingly dominated auctions over the past 18 months. Around half of the sales at Christie's last weekend were to Asia-based clients.

However, there is also speculation that sales will increase in the UK as consumers look to invest in wine to avoid an expected hike in capital gains tax in next week's Budget. Wine is not currently covered by the tax.

Excitement around the Bordeaux 2009 vintage, hailed as the best in a generation, is likely to spike the value of the fine wine market even further.

Liv-ex reported last week that euro prices for Bordeaux 'en primeur' 2009 are up an average 45% on 2008 and by 20% on 2005, which was itself heralded as a landmark vintage. 

"It's astonishing," Simon Staples, sales and marketing director at London-based merchant Berry Bros & Rudd, told just-drinks recently. Berry Bros and other merchants expect to have to ration 2009 supplies to only their most loyal customers, such is the demand for a piece of the vintage.

Some merchants have raised concerns about fraud following the 2009 en primeur campaign.

Other merchants have pointed out that, even without 2009, the fine wine market as a whole remains buoyant.

"Although all the talk is of 2009s, there appears to be no let up in demand for older vintages of classified growth claret," said Tom Jenkins, a Bordeaux buyer for Diageo-owned merchant Justerini & Brooks.