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December 19, 2010

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No wine recession

IN another sign that the world economy is in the midst of a recovery, Christie's auction house reported global wine sales topped US$71 million for 2010, or about what they were in 2007 before the recession began.

"Recession? Not in the wine business," Charles Curtis, head of Christie's wines said on Wednesday. "Wine sales were sort of trending up throughout the year" and kept getting stronger.

During the spring season, when the auction house held 10 sales in London, Paris, Geneva, Amsterdam, New York and Hong Kong, US$20.9 million worth of fine wines and spirits went under the hammer. For the autumn season, when Christie's held 13 sales in the same cities, the total reached US$50.5 million.

For comparison, in all of 2009, the auction house's global wine sales were US$50.4 million.

"I think in 2011 prices will be going through the roof," said Curtis, who is moving to Hong Kong from New York to lead Christie's efforts in Asia. "I'm very bullish on this. There are new areas of demand opening up all the time."

Indeed, Sotheby's, which has not yet reported its final tally of 2010 wine sales, will be kicking off 2011 with an auction in Hong Kong featuring wines from the collection of famous British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. The man who brought "Miss Saigon" to Broadway and sent "Cats" and "Phantom of the Opera" to stages around the world, is selling part of his cellar.

Sotheby's estimates the 747 lots that include all the first-growth Bordeaux, as well as some Domaine LeFlaive and Domaine de la Romanee Conti from Burgundy, will fetch between US$2.8 million and US$4.1 million at the auction next month.

Meanwhile, Chicago-based Hart Davis Hart Wine Co reported that its yearly wine auction sales totaled US$39.2 million, a 63 percent increase over 2009.

And New York-headquarted Zachy's Wine Auctions, which also holds sales in Hong Kong, reported US$56.5 million worth of wines were sold.

Among the top-grossing wines were a collection that included three centuries of Chateau d'Yquem - 120 bottles and 40 magnums - that Christie's sold in Hong Kong in May for US$1,032,336 to a private European collector.


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