C heers to a stellar year for wine and spirits at Sotheby’s.
“2022 has been a wonderful vintage, not only in most wine regions around the globe, but also for us at Sotheby’s Wine,” says specialist Amayès Aouli. Sotheby’s saw a record $158 million in sales around the globe – a 14 percent increase from last year – with over a third of sales ($54 million) coming from the growing market for fine wines and spirits in Asia. Connoisseurs in France spent $48 million at Sotheby’s, followed by $32 million in the United States and $24 million in the United Kingdom.
Wine sales still make up the majority of the total ($127 million), but spirits are growing fast: in the United States spirit sales grew from $5 million to $12 million since last year, and globally spirits accounted for 20 percent of the department’s total in 2022. Among wines, Burgundy was clients’ favorite growing region, accounting for 50 percent of wine sales (buoyed by the excellent results of the Monumental DRC auction), followed by Bordeaux at 27 percent. Yet even France wasn’t immune to the growing desire for spirits: this year Sotheby’s hosted its first spirits auction in the country, joining regular sales in London, New York and Hong Kong, where there’s exceptionally high demand for whisky.
The demographics of buyers of wine and spirits are changing, presenting new opportunities for diversification and growth. Impressively, 35 percent of the department’s clients this year were under 40 years of age. Buyers in Asia accounted for 41 percent of auction sales by value, followed by continental Europe (27 percent), the Americas (20 percent) and the United Kingdom (7 percent); buyers in all regions increased over the preceding year.
In fact, the single-owner sale A Pristine Modern Cellar in Hong Kong saw every single one of the 832 lots sell – an impressive, white-glove feat no matter the category. Other single-owner sales on the island included The Wine Hunter’s Cellar and Henri Jayer, and the department also held two auctions featuring puerh, following last year’s inaugural sale. Dassai Beyond the Beyond 2022 became the first saké to appear in a US auction at Sotheby’s when it sold for $8,125 in New York.
The department’s record-setting results were spread across 66 separate auctions (up 25 percent from 2021), including 33 single-owner sales that collectively achieved $99 million, suggesting the impact great collectors can have on the market. The most valuable auction of the year was the 162nd edition of the Hospices de Beaune, a charity auction that raised $32 million – $33 million accounting for the Pièce des Présidents charity barrel.
“2022 has been marked by two major auctions with philanthropic purposes,” says Yves de Launay, Head of Auction Sales. In addition to the $32 million Hospices de Beaune charity auction in France and others around the world, he cited the US auction of the personal cellar of H.R.H. Prince Robert de Luxembourg benefiting the PolG Foundation and the addition of the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) and Collective Napa Valley’s (CNV) year-round charity auctions to support various philanthropic endeavors. “Charity auctions combined represented over 50 percent of the year’s total wine business in the US.”
Such partnerships extended directly to winemakers and distillers, too. This year, Sotheby’s sold wine directly from Lynch-Bages ($1.2 million), Château du Clos de Vougeot ($869,150) and Château Mouton Rothschild ($181,895), as well as collaborated on sales with the distilleries Diageo ($1,061,900 per cask), Macallan ($325,740), Dalmore ($137,900) and Glenturret ($61,680).
“Overall 2022 saw a very strong performance in a very challenging market,” says the department. “Bordeaux and Burgundy clearly led the way with an increasing demand for vintage Champagne and rare wines for other regions such as Tuscany or Rhone. Demand should remain strong for the finest and rarest wines in 2023.”