Press Release


By Sotheby's
Driven by Expansion of Online Sales and Increase in First-Time Buyers
Market Leader in Asia

Growth in Spirits Business with 20% of Overall Sales

Sotheby’s Wine’s annual auction sales of wines and spirits totalled $92 million in 2020, driven by the expansion of online sales, younger buyers entering the market, an increase in first-time buyers, and both new and established collectors embracing the company’s enhanced digital tools. Buyers from Asia continued to claim a larger share of global sales, with Sotheby’s leading the market in the region for the third consecutive year. Sotheby’s Wine Retail also achieved strong results this year, in both Hong Kong and New York.

“Our success in 2020 was due to our team’s ability to adopt a very rapid digital transformation, where we hosted 17 online auctions in addition to 23 live auctions, when we originally planned 28 live auctions. The digital tools that we now use would have taken another two to five years to implement under normal circumstances and resulted in the growth of 40% of new buyers, with particular strength in the under 40 category. The year’s highlights were the strength of our sales in Asia, representing over 55%, the growth in the Spirits market representing 20%, and the publication of The New Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia. The range of our sales illustrates our innovation as leaders in the wine and spirits business and the breadth of our activities, from auction to retail, from New York to Hong Kong.”
Jamie Ritchie, Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s Wine
“To lead the market in Asia for the third year in a row, with our second highest total and backboned by eight single owner sales, is testament to the wonderful collections we have been entrusted with, and thanks to our loyal clients throughout the region. In these unprecedented and challenging times, Sotheby’s Wine has transformed its business across the world, with a digital revolution. In Hong Kong, our Spirits business has led this charge with eight online sales, selling to more fine Spirits collectors and to a younger and more diverse client base, than ever before. We look forward to continuing this trend in 2021.”
Adam Bilbey, Head of Sotheby’s Wine, Asia
“2020 saw phenomenal growth for spirits, which made up 20% of Sotheby’s Wine’s annual business globally. During this challenging time, we rapidly and successfully transitioned to an online auction format, bringing in new bidders and generating records for the most valuable Japanese Whisky, the oldest vintage Cognac, and the highest price for any bottle of Dalmore sold at auction. Sensitive to the struggles felt by so many around the world this year, we partnered with The Macallan, The Dalmore, Dictador and Diageo to produce sensational results for charities such as City Harvest, Water Aid and SAMH. We look forward to continuing this success into 2021 with more distillery partnerships for charity, leading with the Black Bowmore Cabinet in Hong Kong next Spring”.
Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s Spirits Specialist

Facts & Figures

Global Wine and Spirits sales total $92 million
Over 15,000 lots sold across 41 sales, an almost 50% increase in the number of sales held in 2019
Bidders from more than 40 countries
Market leader in Asia for third consecutive year
Growth in spirits business with an overall total of $18 million (20% total sales), 15 sales and 1,800 lots sold – five years ago spirits represented less than 2% of sales
Top lots of the year: The Macallan Red Collection, sold for $977,496; The Macallan in Lalique Six Pillars Collection, sold for $507,819; 12 bottles of Romanée Conti 1990 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, sold for $483,413

Strength in Asia:
Second biggest year ever, with digital transformation (including 11 online sales versus two online sales in 2019)
Three-day Hong Kong sale series in July brought $23 million: the third highest total ever for a wine sale series in Asia, over 150% higher than any competitor wine sale series
40% of bidders in Hong Kong sales are in their 20s and 30s
Over 30% bidders in Hong Kong sales are new to Sotheby’s
73% of total bid amount in all Wine and Spirits sales come from collectors in Asia

Over $60 million of wine and spirits sold to online bidders in 2020 versus $28 million in 2019
84% lots offered were bought online
46% first time bidders aged in their 20s or 30s

New Buyers and Bidders:
40% buyers and 38% bidders new to Sotheby’s
Bidders aged 40 years or younger made up 29% of new bidders, 31% total amount bid amount in global wine sales, and 38% bidders in global Spirits sales
45% bidders bid for first time in Spirits sales
31% bidders bid for first time in Wine sales


Twelve single owner auctions totalled over $47 million, representing 53% of sales, selling at 154% above the low estimate, confirming the enduring value of great condition and provenance. Wines from the Cellar of Joseph Lau and The Five-Star Cellar, Iconic Wines of Impeccable Provenance were 100% sold.

A three-day series of wines and spirits sales in Hong Kong in July brought a total of $23 million – the third highest-value wine sale series ever held in Asia.

Demand for Burgundy remains strong: In June in New York, three record-breaking methuselahs of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti from 2005, 2006 and 2007 led the $5.14 million evening auction of The Pristine Burgundy Collection, together achieving $731,600 and establishing new world auction records for: any methuselah of Burgundy ($297,600, for the 2005 vintage); any methuselah of 2007 Burgundy ($223,200); and any methuselah of 2006 Burgundy ($210,800).

In Hong Kong, 12 bottles of Romanée-Conti Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 1990 from the Cellar of Joseph Lau, sold for $483,413.

10th annual collaboration with Ornellaia on the Tuscan estate’s exceptional Vendemmia d’Artista project, with a sale of large format bottles of Ornellaia’s 2017 vintage featuring designs by artist Tomás Saraceno, in support of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation’s ‘Mind’s Eye’ programme.


Several world record prices for Spirits at auction were achieved this year:

World record for any bottle of Japanese whisky with Karuizawa 52 Year Old Zodiac Rat Cask #5627 1960 ($435,273, London, March).

World record for any bottle of whisky produced by the Dalmore Distillery with two bottles of The Dalmore 62 Year Old ($324,445 per bottle, London, May).

World record for any bottle of Cognac with The Gautier Cognac 1762 ($144,525, London, May), which is also the oldest vintage Cognac to be offered at auction.

The year saw several partnerships with leading distilleries:

Sotheby’s X The Macallan: In October at Sotheby’s in London, a unique set of The Macallan Red Collection – the only artist’s label set to be released by The Macallan – sold for $977,496. Proceeds from this lot were donated to City Harvest London and provided 620,000 meals for those in need.

Sotheby’s X Diageo: In September the first offering at auction of set #1 of the first release of The Prima & Ultima Collection sold for $35,249 in an online auction, with proceeds from the sale donated to Diageo’s charity partner WaterAid.

Sotheby’s X The Dalmore: Sotheby’s first Dalmore collaboration of the year in Hong Kong saw an entire Cask of 1973 Dalmore offered as part of the innovative cross-category silent auction ‘In Confidence: Selected Masterpieces’. The winning bidder will be flown to Scotland to work directly with The Dalmore Master Distilling team to complete their casks maturation and bottle into personalised decanters.

Sotheby’s second partnership of 2020 with The Dalmore in Hong Kong consisted of two 1979 Private Cask bottlings in engraved Candela crystal decanters donated directly from The Dalmore Distillery for charity. The proceeds from the Dalmore 38 & 39 Year Old Private Casks 1979, which sold for $32,390, benefitted the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH).

Sotheby’s X Dictador: In May, a cask of 1980 single vintage rum consigned directly from Dictador sold for $47,192 in London, with proceeds donated to the Art Masters Charity.

Sotheby’s X Bowmore: In the spring of 2021 in Hong Kong, Sotheby’s will offer The Black Bowmore Archive Cabinet – the complete Black Bowmore single malt whisky collection direct from the Bowmore distillery, comprising five archive bottles, spanning 1993 to 2016, presented in a truly unique bespoke piece of furniture created by award-winning craftsman John Galvin (estimate in the region of $500,000).

New Benchmarks For Sotheby’s Wine

First offering of Japanese sake at auction, in Hong Kong in November – six bottles of Dassai Sake from the limited Beyond the Beyond collection. Made from the award-winning Yamada Nishiki sake rice harvested in 2019, the six bottles brought a combined total of $46,605, surpassing the high estimate.

First full year of Sotheby’s Own Label Collection saw strong demand. Created with the intent of presenting excellent wines at attractive prices to a wider consumer base, the top sellers have been: Sparkling – Champagne 30%, Prosecco 11%; White – Sancerre 11%, Chablis 10%; Red – Haut Medoc 10%, Langhe Nebbiolo 7%.

Fully updated and revised for the first time since 2011, ‘The New Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia’ – the most comprehensive guide to the world of wine – was published. The 800-page sixth edition, reflecting the most recent trends and beautifully illustrated with more than 400 images and 100 brand-new National Geographic maps, this definitive resource – with a foreword written by Jamie Ritchie – features extensively researched information on how grapes are grown and made into wine, as well as the history, culture, geographic regions, and taste of vintages around the globe.


London | Matthew Floris || +44 (0)20 7293 6000

About Sotheby’s Wine
Sotheby’s Wine, with a store located within the auction house’s worldwide headquarters on New York’s Upper East Side, offers a carefully curated selection of wines from the world’s most prestigious producers and important regions. Expertly assembled by Sotheby’s’ experienced specialists, the ever-evolving selection is built upon lasting relationships with winemakers from across the globe, with prices beginning at just $13.95. With bottles that are ready for immediate consumption, in addition to investment-worthy wines from highly sought-after vintages, each wine is chosen for its expression of its region and value for money. Each bottle selected by Sotheby’s specialist team must pass the brand’s signature “three-glass” tasting guideline, meaning that the tasters must like it enough to want to drink three glasses, or the standard amount enjoyed when sharing a bottle.

The Sotheby’s Wine Store in New York City is located at 1334 York Avenue, and is open Monday through Friday from 10AM to 7PM and Saturday from 10AM to 6PM. Along with a retail location in Hong Kong Sotheby’s Wine also offers all bottles online, 24 hours, at

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