Asians toast Lloyd Webber's wines in $5.6 million sale

HONG KONG Sat Jan 22, 2011 7:43am EST

HONG KONG (Reuters Life!) - Some $5.6 million worth of fine wines from the cellars of British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber were hammered off in a sale at Sotheby's Hong Kong on Saturday amid ebullient demand from Asian and online bidders.

With the former British colony of Hong Kong emerging as a global wine auction hub overtaking stalwarts like New York and London, the Lloyd Webber sale -- 100 percent sold by lot -- again underscored a voracious and growing thirst for the world's finest vintages amongst minted Asian and Chinese buyers.

In another telling sign, a two-day auction in Hong Kong by leading U.S. wine sellers Acker Merrall & Condit fetched a bumper $10.8 million for 1,200 lots of wines, with rare Chateau Petrus and Lafite vintages shining through. At the Lloyd Webber sale in the luxury Mandarin Oriental Hotel, a mix of Western and Asian collectors, some sipping wine, from Webber's personal collection and feasting on a gourmet buffet spread, seemed in high spirits to propel sales of the 746 lots well above the pre-sale estimate of $4.1 million. 53 percent of lots were bid on by online bidders.

"We sold Andrew Lloyd Webber's wine collection before in 1997 in London and that was an inflection point in the wine market when wine prices really took off," said Robert Sleigh, Sotheby's senior director of Asian wines.

"It's obviously taken until 2011 for him to realize that once again, he has unfortunately too much wine that he's never going to drink and so we've been offered the opportunity to offer this wine in Hong Kong, which is the logical location as the world's strongest wine market right now."

All top ten lots went to Asian private buyers, including a 12-bottle case of 1982 Chateau Petrus hammered off for $77,564, while a dozen bottles of 1982 Chateau Lafite fetched $58,949.

"I hope the new owners enjoy my wines as much as I have and look forward to reacquainting myself with them in restaurants all over China when 'Cats' starts its national tour in Mandarin, Lloyd Webber said in a statement after the sale.

The millionaire composer of some of the biggest and most commercially successful musicals in recent decades such as "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Cats" is also well-known as an art and wine collector. (Editing by Elaine Lies)

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