House: Hart Davis Hart
Date: 26 June 2010, 09:00 CDT
Title: An Auction of Finest & Rarest Wines
Live Location: Chicago (Tru Restaurant, 676 N. St. Clair Street)
Phone: +1 312-482-9996
Buyer’s Premium: 19.5% + Sales Tax (if received in Illinois)
Shipping: The auction catalog lists the following shipping options within the United States:
- Local Delivery (within 10 miles of downtown Chicago) (approximate fees: $14-$30 per case)
- Common Carrier Ground Service (approximate fees: $25-$45 per case)
- Second Day Air Service (approximate fees: $49-$113 per case)
- Next Day Air Service (approximate fees: $103-$120 per case)
- Fully licensed temperature controlled trucking, when available ($750.00 min. charge)
Storage: “We offer complimentary storage in our temperature and humidity-controlled facilities for 60 days after the date of auction.”
Total Lots: 1,173
Wine Distribution: Red Bordeaux 50% (590 lots), Red California 17% (200 lots), Red Burgundy 16% (186 lots), Red Italian 5% (63 lots), Red Rhone 4.5% (53 lots), White California 2% (24 lots), White Burgundy 1.5% (17 lots), Champagne 1.5% (16 lots)
Most Expensive Estimate: Lot 208, Romanée-Conti, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 1995 (6 btls.) and Lot 233, Romanée-Conti, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 2003 (6 magnums), USD$45,000
Least Expensive Estimate: Lot 555, Domaine Raveneau, 1er Cru Chablis 2005 (2 btls.), USD$220
Potential Bargains (Using QPR or Quality to Price Ratio):
Like Haut-Brion, but don’t like Haut-Brion prices? This HDH auction has a lot featuring six magnums of the 1999 Chateau Bahans Haut-Brion, the second wine of Chateau Haut-Brion, which has been called Clarence de Haut-Brion since 2007 (lot no. 133). Although only scoring in the high-80s according to Tanzer and Parker when it was first tasted in the bottle in 2002, it’s in its prime drinking window now. Vinopedia only shows one store in the world selling magnums of the Bahans ’99, the Swiss retailer AMP International Trading, which lists it for approximately USD$92 (look at page 4 of AMP’s price list where it’s shown at CHF 109). If you could get this lot for anything within its estimate range of USD$220-$320, you’d be beating retail handily, especially if you live in the U.S., as shipping from HDH in Chicago will be much less than AMP in Switzerland.
Staying on the theme of second wines from top Bordeaux, Lot 660 is a case of the 2000 Réserve de la Comtesse, the second wine of Chateau Pichon-Longueville, Lalande. As most of you know, 2000 was an excellent vintage for Bordeaux, and though the users of CellarTracker are all over the board on this particular wine, most of these amateur tasters rate it around a 90. Plus, the well-known English wine seller Lay and Wheeler says in its tasting note for the ’00: “This has to be the best Réserve de la Comtesse we have tasted.” This wine averages USD$61 per bottle on Wine Searcher at retail, with the least expensive option being $47 a bottle at San Francisco Wine Consulting, which has two bottles currently in stock. With a top estimate of USD$450 for this lot, you’d be getting a very good price at a $400 or less hammer price.
If you fancy a white wine instead, there a quite a few options, though none that are particularly inexpensive. The least expensive estimate in the entire auction is, as mentioned above, for a lot of two different primer cru Chablis from Domaine Raveneau (the Butteaux and the Montmains) in Lot 555, and I do love Chablis. But considering that the French wine dealer Millesimes lists the Butteaux for 77.74 € (approximately USD$81 — thank you strong dollar), this lot isn’t exactly a bargain unless you get it for significantly less than the maximum estimate of USD$220.
Well, this is getting familiar.
This is only the third wine auction preview on this blog so far, and invariably, the most expensive lots are DRC and Lafite. The nine most pricey lots by maximum estimate in this HDH auction come from those two producers, as do the vast majority of the top 50 most expensive lots (with Bordeaux stars Petrus, Le Pin, and Latour making a few appearances). Sure, sure, this is completely understandable considering how collectible, storied, and in demand these wines are. For example, Liv-ex, the exchange that acts as sort of a “stock market” for fine wine, has 702 vintages of Lafite Rothschild and 287 vintages of Domaine Romanee Conti available for trading going back to the 18th and 19th Centuries respectively. Lafite and DRC have been desirable for a long, long time.
If you’re a collector, these brands have to be in your portfolio. If you’re a drinker, although you have to try and find a way to try these wines — they are just too superlative to not drink if you have the opportunity — their exorbitant prices make drinking Lafite or DRC almost idiotic. Lot 208 of this auction is six bottles of 1995 Romanée-Conti with a minimum estimate of USD$30,000. For those of you who are bad at math, that’s $5,000 a bottle, plus buyer’s premium, shipping, taxes, etc.
Just for comparison, for USD$30,000 you could buy almost 24 ounces of gold (or 600 grams), even at today’s inflated gold prices. Is it worth it to buy this ’95 DRC to drink at such a price even if the estimable Allen Meadows, the Burghound himself, calls it “extremely impressive”? I like wine a heck of a lot more than gold, but I think I’d rather have six big ol’ bars of gold myself.