Tuesday 17 December 2019 3:46 pm

Sotheby's wine business toasts record-breaking year

Sotheby’s Wine toasted sales of more than $100m (£75.9m) for the second consecutive year in 2019, following a string of record-breaking auctions, as wealthy investors seek alternative asset classes.

The auctioneer reported total auction sales of $118m in 2019, an increase of 20 per cent, in a year that saw Sotheby’s in London record its highest value wine or spirits sale.  

Sotheby’s broke the world auction record for any bottle of wine or spirit when ‘The Macallan 60-year-old 1926 was bought for $1.9m, as part of “The Ultimate Whisky Collection”. In total the collection, which went on sale in London in October, achieved sales of $10m.

In April the auction house set a new record for a private wine collection sold at auction when Hong Kong’s Tran-send-ent Wines sold for $29.8m. 

The bumper year comes as high net worth individuals are increasingly moving towards long-term alternative investments that are more shielded from wider market movements amid greater political uncertainty.

Tom Gearing, co-founder at wine investment specialist Cult Wines, told City A.M: “If we look at what is going on at the moment, there is uncertainty, which is when people look for safe haven assets, they look to be more defensive. 

Read more: Proceeds from wine sale at Sotheby’s to be donated to Notre Dame rescue

“A bottle of great Bordeaux will always have a great value in the market place, and you can’t say that about stocks and shares.”

Fine wine was the second best performing asset class in the latest Coutts Passion Index, up 2.4 per cent in value throughout 2018. 

Since the private bank launched the index in 2005, the asset class has gone up in value by 198 per cent, although the value can swing dramatically from year to year. 

Sotheby’s Wine chairman Jamie Ritchie said: “2019 has been another record-setting year for Sotheby’s Wine.

“We achieved our highest-ever annual total for both auction and retail, and continued to innovate, demonstrated by the presentation of our auction catalogues as well as online-only sales, and the launch of both our spirits business and the Sotheby’s Own Label Collection. 

“There were several historic moments: in the spring, we had a monumental, $35 million, record-breaking weekend in Hong Kong, with the world auction record for any series of wine sales. 

“This was followed in the autumn by our first-ever single-owner spirits auction, which saw the highest-ever price for any bottle of wine or whisky sold at auction.”