Hong Kong fugitive billionaire Joseph Lau's wines were all sold out at Sotheby's last week (pic: Sotheby's)

Hong Kong fugitive billionaire Joseph Lau's wines were all sold out at Sotheby's last week (pic: Sotheby's)

Sotheby's wine and spirits sales boomed in 2021, though Asian wine buyers' dominance wanes. The auction house also announced key leadership changes.

Asian buyers’ dominance on Sotheby’s global wine and spirits auctions is slipping, as the auction house beefs up its presence in Europe through Hospices de Beaune auction and new sales initiative in France.

In Sotheby’s newly released Wine & Spirits Market Report 2021, the auction house achieved US$132 million in wine and spirits sales last year, a 44% growth over 2020.

While Asia continues to drive the market, its lead in wine and spirits is waning. Wine buyers from the region is responsible for 52% of Sotheby’s global wine sales and 51% of its global spirits sales, down from 65% and 77%, respectively.

Sotheby's wine and spirits sales in 2021 grew by 41% to US$132 million (pic: Sotheby's)
Sotheby’s wine and spirits sales in 2021 grew by 44% to US$132 million (pic: Sotheby’s)

Within Asia, Hong Kong leads the market, contributing US$38 million to the auction house’s global auction sales, followed by mainland China (US$7 million), Singapore (US$5 million) and Taiwan (US$4 million).

American buyers and European buyers meanwhile are on the rise. Partially due to the lifting of the 25% tariffs on French wine, the USA share of buyers bounced back and became stronger in 2021. In addition, French buyer base strengthened and increased as the Hospices de Beaune auction was introduced this year. Sotheby’s also launched new wine sales in France last autumn.

Spirits saw increased American and European interest, due to Sotheby’s success with the Thoroughbred Collection, the first time a significant spirits auction focused exclusively on American whiskeys, and the first year of the Distiller’s One of One charity auction which drove interest and bidding activity from European spirits lovers.

Top producer ranking

The market report also listed out the top performing producers in Sotheby’s sales last year.

With little doubt, producers from Burgundy represented the top four rankings, while Bordeaux supplied another four of the top 10, joined by Macallan and Moutai.

The 161st Hospices de Beaune auction was Sotheby’s first auction in its five-year partnership. It brought in over US$15 million for charity. This resulted in the Hospices de Beaune joining DRC at the top of the annual producer rankings. Moutai also entered the top rankings for the first time.

Leadership changes

Its wine department also saw some major leadership reshuffles. Jamie Ritchie has been appointed Worldwide Chairman, Sotheby’s Wine & Spirits and, in tandem, Benoit Vialle joined Sotheby’s in March as Global Head of Sotheby’s Wine & Spirits, following Adam Bilbey’s departure.

Benoit was most recently the Chief Growth Officer at Vivino, the world’s largest online wine marketplace and most downloaded wine app, and has extensive expertise at the intersection of wine and technology. 

Paul Wong in Hong Kong was named Director and Head of Department Wine & Spirits Auction.

Jonny Fowle has a new role as Head of Whisky & Spirits for North America and EMEA.

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