Fine wine news roundup: 19 December – 8 January
HDH rounds off 2020 with ‘record shattering’ sale
US auctioneer Hart Davies Hart has closed is 2020 season with a “record-shattering” sale featuring wines from the collection of the late Joseph Phelps.
The two-day sale saw 100% of lots sold for a total $10.4 million – almost $2 million above the pre-sale high estimate.
Highlights from the sale included bottles of 1865 and 1948 Lafite Rothschild ($31,070 each), 11 bottles of 1959 Latour ($77,675) and 12 bottles of 1961 Latour ($23,900). There were also a number of Californian classics up for grabs, such as two bottles of 1971 Ridge Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard, which sold for a record $20,315.
The event also included gems from another private collection, including the likes of 1961 La Mission Haut-Brion, Armand Rousseau 2010 Chambertin, 2000 Latour, Domaine Leroy’s 2009 Musigny and 1990 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti.
Auction houses celebrate 2020 success despite pandemic challenges
Fine wine auction houses are reporting strong sales from 2020, despite the challenges presented by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Sotheby’s led the charge, announcing last month that its sales for the year totalled $92 million. The auction house sold 15,000 lots across 41 sales – a 50% increase on the number of sales held in 2019.
According to Jamie Ritchie, worldwide head of Sotheby’s Wine, this success was attributable to the team’s “ability to adopt a very rapid digital transformation”.
“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,” he said.
Zachys, meanwhile, saw its 40 sales – including its first in London – top $85 million. It was at Zachys’ second London sale in September that the house sold its top lot of the year: a 228-litre barrel of Domaine Fourrier’s 2019 Chambolle Musigny Les Sentiers, which went for $179,674.
Elsewhere, Hart Davies Hart raised a total of $59 million from just nine sales.
Wine-Searcher reveals critics’ 2020 favourites
Wine pricing platform Wine-Searcher has revealed the world’s best wines according to critics.
By aggregating scores from a range of critics including Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson, the platform found that Domaine Leroy Chambertin Grand Cru is the current overall critic favourite, selling at an average of $8,813.
This was followed by Leroy Domaine d'Auvenay Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru in second place ($7,904); Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Romanée-Conti Grand Cru in third ($20,678); Domaine Leroy Romanee-Saint-Vivant Grand Cru in fourth ($6,296); and Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru in fifth ($21,253).
A port and four reds from Napa Valley (two from Abreu Vineyard and one each from Harlan Estate and Screaming Eagle) rounded out the top 10.
According to Wine-Searcher’s Don Kavanagh, “Price, of course, has kept pace with score, although the total increase in value for the top 10 as a whole wasn't massive – just a rise of 2.6% in average price across the 10 wines, mostly driven by a 19% hike in the Leroy Musigny's average price.
“Although it wasn't all upward mobility; the average price for Leroy Chambertin – the best wine in the world, according to the critics – actually fell by $153 since last year, or 1.7%.”
Study shows wine and cheese is good for your brain
Good news for those that like a cheeseboard alongside their favourite tipple. The results of a decade-long study indicate that moderate amounts of wine and cheese can improve brain function and help to prevent cognitive decline.
The study, conducted by Iowa State University, followed more than 1,700 participants aged between 46 and 77 over the course of 10 years. Each participant completed an initial assessment that included questions about their diet and a Fluid Intelligence Test (FIT), which measures the ability to quickly use reason and logic to solve problems. Two follow-up assessments were administered to the same participants between 2006 and 2012.
The data subsequently showed a correlation between red wine and cheese consumption, and higher performance in FITs. Speaking to Wine Spectator, principal investigator Dr Auriel Willette said: "There was a strong, clear relationship between eating more cheese or drinking more red wine and having a higher fluid intelligence score over a six- to 10-year period."
Dr Willette said that the study did not specifically examine which components in cheese and wine were responsible for these benefits, and that further clinical trials would be needed to determine exactly what impact diet has on brain health. However, he added: "I was pleasantly surprised that our results suggest that responsible eating of cheese and drinking red wine daily are not just good for helping us cope with our current COVID-19 pandemic, but perhaps also dealing with an increasingly complex world that never seems to slow down."