Back in March, as COVID-19 forced bidders to stay at home, auction houses Zachys and Sotheby’s were given no choice but to transform their businesses overnight. The result has been spectacular, with both auction houses surpassing projections and achieving record sales. 

Zachys sets World Records at its first ever London auction

Zachys was the first major auction house to offer its live auctions fully online, allowing clients to bid across the globe from the comfort of their own homes. Despite lockdown, Zachys has enjoyed its busiest half-year ever, with over £34 million in year-to-date auction sales. 

The business has recently expanded to include an office in London – a logical next step with several offices already in the US, China, Hong Kong, Paris and Stockholm. Its debut UK auction, hosted via livestream on 12th September, was a roaring success with 100% of 864 lots sold. 

Despite this being its first London-based auction, 26% of the auction (226 lots) set new World Records, and an astonishing 55% (475 lots) set new European Records. The wines and aquavit were from the legendary cellar of three-Michelin-star Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence, Italy, and brought in a total of £3,153,952.

Christy Erickson, Head of Zachys Europe said: “We’re delighted with the results of our European debut. We were coming into the auction against a backdrop of global uncertainty due to the ongoing pandemic, but since wine auction sales in 2020 thus far have exceeded our January projections, we decided to forge ahead. And we’re glad we did: (our UK) auction shows that the fine-wine auction industry is still booming, and our buyers’ appetite for quality shows no sign of slowing.”

She continues, “We’re thrilled to have set a 226 World Records and achieve over double our pre-auction estimate for this collection. We can now look forward to three more sales in New York and Hong Kong in September, three auctions in New York in October, and then we’re back in November for our second sale in London.’’

Burgundy shines in Sotheby’s autumn HK auction 

Over at Sotheby’s, more than half of total sales in Wine & Spirits in 2020 so far have been made online, reaching $24 million. Their highest online bid was $312,000 for The Macallan in Lalique 6 Pillars collection. 

Their autumn season started with a bang in Hong Kong, with two private cellars being sold for a combined HK$72.8 million (US$9.4m) – both 100% sold.

Sotheby’s regional head, Adam Bilbey, said the results are testament to the “continued and growing nature of Asia’s appetite for fine wine, and the competitive market in the region. China, Japan and Southeast Asia are all now extremely busy markets for us. You’re seeing a continued thirst for wines at this end of the market, and auction houses like us offer the opportunity to buy from stand-alone private collections around the world.” 

He goes on to say that there is “very much a consistency of purchasers across the auction market now. In the UK, it is skewed slightly more towards trade customers, but in Hong Kong we tend to see a similar demographic of private collectors year after year. Of course you will always see themes, for example in the US where the market for Italian wine is much stronger than anywhere else at present. But in the same breath you say that the demand for high-end Burgundy is extremely strong in Hong Kong.” 

Sure enough, the top lot was a 12-bottle case of 1990 Romanée-Conti which was sold for HK$3.7m (US$509,545). The second, featuring the collection of an anonymous consignor, realised HK$19.8m (US$2.6m) with more Burgundy, this time a 12-bottle case of 1998 Romanée-St-Vivant from Domaine Leroy.