French wine big hit at Hong Kong auction

Some 2,000 bottles of vintage French burgundy wine from the venerable Maison Bouchard Pere et Fils, including one from 1846, were snapped up at a Hong Kong auction Saturday.

French wine big hit at Hong Kong auction
Hong Kong abolished duties on wine imports in 2008 and Burgundy wines are now proving very popular with Asian collectors. Photo: Anthony Wallace / AFP

The 1846 vintage, from the Meursault-Charmes region, sold for HK$134,750($17,451) — far exceeding a top-ranged estimate of HK$80,000 — to an undisclosed bidder after enthusiastic bidding at Christie's Hong Kong office.

The auction house described it as the oldest bottle in the Bouchard cellars, with a pale golden colour and a honeyed character.

Tim Triptree, senior specialist and head of sales for Christie's wine department said he was “delighted” with the results from the Bouchard sale.

“Early examples of Burgundy like those presented in the sale are extremely rare, with 16 bottles in our sale dating from the 19th century,” Triptree said following the auction.

“The strong results from today's sale, reflect how Burgundy wines continue to be avidly collected in the (Asian) region,” he said, adding that the bottles were recorked after they were opened, tasted and checked.

Another highlight of the sale saw a 1865 Montrachet sold for HK$196,000,much more than the top range estimate of HK$60,000.

Hong Kong, which abolished duties on wine imports in 2008, has been a gateway to the booming wine market in mainland China, but an austerity drive in China has made officials wary of bagging high-end bottles.

The crackdown on excess depressed sales in 2013 and 2014, but the Chinese market has since picked up.

Gilles de Larouziere, president of the Henriot wine group, which owns Maison Bouchard, had previously said the sale was taking place in the southern Chinese city because of “extraordinary enthusiasm for great French wines”.

The vineyards of Maison Bouchard Pere et Fils, which the Henriot family of Champagne took over in 1995, cover around 130 hectares (320 acres), of which 12 hectares produce grand cru wines and 74 hectares grow second-ranking premier crus.

It was founded in 1731 and has a collection of some 150,000 bottles.


Cold snap ‘could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent’

A rare cold snap that froze vineyards across much of France this month could see harvest yields drop by around a third this year, France's national agriculture observatory said on Thursday.

Cold snap 'could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent'
A winemaker checks whether there is life in the buds of his vineyard in Le Landreau, near Nantes in western France, on April 12th, following several nights of frost. Photo: Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

Winemakers were forced to light fires and candles among their vines as nighttime temperatures plunged after weeks of unseasonably warm weather that had spurred early budding.

Scores of vulnerable fruit and vegetable orchards were also hit in what Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie called “probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century.”

IN PICTURES: French vineyards ablaze in bid to ward off frosts

The government has promised more than €1 billion in aid for destroyed grapes and other crops.

Based on reported losses so far, the damage could result in up to 15 million fewer hectolitres of wine, a drop of 28 to 30 percent from the average yields over the past five years, the FranceAgriMer agency said.

That would represent €1.5 to €2 billion of lost revenue for the sector, Ygor Gibelind, head of the agency’s wine division, said by videoconference.

It would also roughly coincide with the tally from France’s FNSEA agriculture union.

Prime Minister Jean Castex vowed during a visit to damaged fields in southern France last Saturday that the emergency aid would be made available in the coming days to help farmers cope with the “exceptional situation.”

READ ALSO: ‘We’ve lost at least 70,000 bottles’ – French winemakers count the cost of late frosts