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Lifestyle

It's September - must be wine auction season

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - More than $20 million of wine - mostly top flight Bordeaux and Burgundies - will be going under the hammer in London, New York and Chicago this month as the autumn auction season gets underway.

Christie's auction house wine specialist Michael Ganne displays a bottle of Romanee-Conti 1945 in Geneva May 8, 2007. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Despite the subprime mortgage crisis and credit crunch, there seems to be no shortage of wine buyers.

“The market is really, really strong right now ... The people who are investing in wine on this scale, these are not the people defaulting on their houses,” said Charles Curtis, the new head of fine wines at Christie’s in New York.

“The luxury segment has continued very strong and wine is part and parcel of that,” he added in an interview.

Curtis will be at Christie’s in London for a two-day auction on Sept 15 and 18 of a vintage from the cellar of a single-buyer, identified as a European collector. Consisting of more than 3,000 cases of the 2000 vintage from Bordeaux, the auction is expected to fetch $3 million.

The auction “will completely set a benchmark for the 2000s,” according to Curtis.

The wines were bought en primeur, directly from the chateau while the wine is still in the barrel, and shipped to a bonded warehouse in London.

EXPENSIVE AND MYSTERIOUS

But the most extensive, and one of the more mysterious auctions, will be held in Chicago by Hart Davis Hart Wine Co.

The two-day event that starts on September 19 consists of more than 1,700 lots of wines from a single collector, which is estimated to sell for $10 million.

“There’s $1.5 million of Petrus alone and $1.6 million of Chateau Lafite and more than 1,000 bottles of Romanee-Conti. It’s not just the quality, it is the quantity. It’s just an amazing collection and the provenance is so exceptional,” said Paul Hart, president and chief executive officer of the auction house.

The American collector, who insisted on anonymity, kept meticulous records of the purchases, almost a third of which he had bought from Hart Wines over the course of 25 years.

Sotheby’s will also be holding sales in London on September 10 and in New York on September 20. Buyers can bid on 1966 Latour and 1968 Lafite in London, while in New York the offerings will include magnums of Chateau Lafite, bottles of Chateau d’Yquem, and a small cache of ‘83 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti.

Each of Sotheby’s auctions is expected to bring in between $2.3 million and $3.3 million.

Zachy’s Fine Wine, which will have its share of first growths among the 2,167 lots on offer, will also be holding a two-day auction in New York on Sept 18 and 19.

Although everyone focuses on the top wines, Jeff Zacharia, Zachy’s president, said wonderful values could be found at auctions. For example, a case of Chateau Leoville Barton 2000 has an estimated price of between $1,200 to $1,800. By contrast, a couple of magnums of Chateau Latour 1996 are expected to fetch between $2,000 and $3000. Six bottles of ‘76 Dom Perignon Oenotheque are expected to sell for $6,000 to

$9,000.

As the remnants of Tropical Storm Hanna drenched New York City on Saturday, Acker Merrall & Condit’s first auction of the fall season brought in just under $4 million in sales.

“The highlight had to be the superlot of 25 Mouton Imperials, which went for $187,550,” John Kapon said of the 1995 vintage from Chateau Mouton Rothschild.

Acker Merrall will be holding another auction in New York at the end of the month.

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