Asian buyers sothebys

Asian buyers are the driving force behind global wine and sprits sales, with many coming from Hong Kong (Pic: Sotheby's)

Sotheby’s Wine reported ‘white glove’ wine sales from fugitive Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau.

Sotheby’s Wine achieved rare ‘white glove’ sales for two of its top wine offerings that went under the hammer on October 3, selling every lot from ‘Wines from the Cellar of Joseph Lau’ and ‘The Five-Star Cellar, Iconic Wines of Impeccable Provenance’, the auction house has announced.

With every lot sold, both auctions achieved ‘white glove’ status, a term in auction used to describe 100% sale rate, and an overall combined total of HK$72.8 million (US$9.4 million).

“It was a real pleasure to pick up the gavel again in Hong Kong so soon after our rescheduled spring sales. Today’s results mirrored the success of those sales, with collectors in Asia and beyond showing no sign of slowing down in their pursuit of the finest wines with exceptional provenance. To have swiftly brought to the market not one but two outstanding single-owner cellars, is testament to our leadership in sourcing stand-alone private collections of the highest quality,” says Adam Bilbey, Head of Sotheby’s Wine Asia.

Joseph Lau and his wife

The collection from Joseph Lau, the controversial fugitive Hong Kong billionaire and a convicted felon in Macau, is described by the auction house “as a pioneering collector across many fields”.

Sotheby’s says he “massed one of the world’s most spectacular wine collections over several decades, focusing on the finest producers and vintages”. Sales of his French wines brought a total of HK$53 million (US$6.8 million), more than doubling pre-sale expectations (est. in excess of HK$25.7 million / US$3.3 million), with all 117 lots sold and 78% achieving prices above their high estimates.

Top lot of the sale was 12 bottles of Romanée-Conti Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 1990, which sold for HK$3,750,000 (US$509,545), exceeding its estimate of HK$1,700,000-2,600,000.

The top lot consisting of 12 bottles of 1990 DRC was sold for HK$3.7 million

Lau founded Chinese Estates Holdings, a Hong Kong property developer, and has an estimated US$16.9 billion fortune, according to Forbes.

In 2014, he was convicted of bribery and money-laundering in a land deal in Macau. He avoided a five-year jail term by not travelling to the gambling hub.

The second sale ‘The Five-Star Cellar, Iconic Wines of Impeccable Provenance’ featured top-drawer Bordeaux and Burgundy, came with five-star provenance. The wines were purchased on original release and kept thereafter in professional storage facilities in the UK.

The results were led by 12 bottles of Romanée St. Vivant 1998 Domaine Leroy, which sold for HK$812,500 / US$110,401 (est. HK$260,000-350,000 / US$32,000-45,000). 75% of all 172 lots sold achieved prices above their high estimates.

The auction house’s third sale on October 4 ‘Finest & Rarest Wines and Spirits’ brought in HK$25 million (US$3.2 million) with 92% sold.

“Burgundy’s finest Domaines continue to be prized by the world’s top collectors and once again these sales re-affirmed that, with spectacular prices in particular for Henri Jayer, DRC and Leroy,” adds Bilbey.

“The result this weekend strengthens our position as market leader in Asia and we are truly grateful to our clients who join us for every auction.  We have several exciting sales lined up for the remainder of the year, and in Hong Kong we are looking forward to our single-owner online auction of spirits at the end of this month, and another private wine collection being offered in November.”

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