Wine auctions to lure bidder with lower estimates

NEW YORK Thu Jun 4, 2009 2:36pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Six major wine auction houses, including a newcomer, will offer Bordeaux, Burgundies and Barolos at knock-down prices this month and with a few changes to attract new bidders.

The auction houses, which reported lower sales volumes this spring as compared to last, will have estimates on some lots that are up to 50 percent less than they were last year.

"We've been lowering the estimates since the beginning of the year, but the end results have been an increased interest from new bidders and winning bids that have been at the top end of the range," said Charles Curtis, head of wines for Christie's North America.

Christie's is leaving New York City for the Hamptons, the playground of the rich and famous, where it will auction almost 800 lots of wine on June 6 at the Atwater Estate in the Hamptons. The estate is for also on sale through Christie's real estate unit for $29 million.

The wines will be less expensive with a case of Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1982 Bordeaux expected to fetch up to $9,000, about half of what a similar case was offered for last year.

Hart Davis Hart chose an urban setting, Tru Restaurant in Chicago, for its sale of 400 lots, including cases of Chateau Cheval Blanc 2000, a premiere grand cru from St. Emilion.

"The estimates are lower than last year ... but I would be surprised to see prices go any lower for top-notch wines as there is an international demand that is quite strong," said wine consultant Judy Beardsall.

Acker Merrall & Condit, which sold almost $8 million at its May 30 auction in Hong Kong, will auction 828 lots on June 11 in New York, and another 200 lots the next day on the Internet at www.AckerAuctions.com.

The first 300 lots on sale on June 13 at Sotheby's New York will be offered without reserve. Among those will be some of the biggest names in Burgundy as well as a case of Salon Champagne. The sale, which totals more than 1,200 lots, also includes cases of wines offered at estimates of $100 to $400.

New York-based Zachys heads to Hong Kong where it will sell more than 800 lots at the Mandarin Oriental on June 13, including wines from the cellar of Timothy Forbes of the Forbes publishing family.

Bloomsbury Auctions is entering the wine market for the first time with its June 19 sale in New York.

It has opted for lower bidder's premium, 17 percent instead of 19.5 to 22 percent charged by the other houses, and it is providing digitalized photos of each of wine, instead of written descriptions.

Bernard Frelat, chief executive of Bloomsbury Auctions USA, said buyers will have up to six months to return any wine that is damaged, and up to a year to return wine that does not match the photograph on its web site

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