Red or white? If you ask the world’s top wine collectors, definitely red—but not just any red.
Sotheby’s made a record $132 million in wine and spirits auctions last year, fueled in part by the sale of Burgundy, according to Penta by Barron’s. This marked a 44 percent increase from the auction house’s 2020 results.
In 2021, wine from the Burgundy region of France, in the northeast of the country, was clearly a hot commodity. Four Burgundy producers achieved top prices in the wine and spirits group, with the leader being Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC), which reached $16.4 million in sales, or 12 percent of the category’s total.
Included in those numbers were nine bottles from DRC’s 1990 vintage of its Romanée-Conti Grand Cru vineyard, which sold for more than $50,000 each at an April 2021 auction in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, at Sotheby’s first wine sale in France, a private collection of DRC completely sold out for $1.5 million, double the low end of the pre-sale estimate.
At that auction, a methuselah of Romanée-Conti 2000 (equivalent to eight bottles) sold for $404,600. Despite the sky-high price, the record for Romanée-Conti is held by two bottles of the 1945 vintage that sold for $558,000 and $496,000 in 2018.
Last year’s exceptional Burgundy sales were also aided by Hospices de Beaune, which annually auctions off wines to raise money for hospitals in Beaune, France. Last November was the 161st edition of the charitable auction, but the first time Sotheby’s ran the sale. Three hundred and sixty-two lots sold for $15.3 million, with all of them hammering down for more than the high end of their pre-sale estimates.
The elevated price for Burgundy is partially a result of its limited supply and ethereal quality. DRC’s Romanée-Conti vineyard, on the one hand, produces only about 5,400 bottles a year. On the other hand, Pétrus, the best Bordeaux producer at Sotheby’s last year, produces about 30,000 bottles a year.
Also at the top of Sotheby’s wine and spirits rankings were Bordeaux producers like Pétrus, Macallan whisky and Kweichow Moutai, a premium baijiu that made it into the top 10 for the first time.
Since serious collectors often opt to store rather than drink their wine, it may be a long while before we know what a $50,000 Burgundy tastes like. But we can always dream.