It seems wherever you look in the world of wine reporting currently, the global buzz of the moment relates to the burgeoning demand for fine and rare wines by Asian consumers, says David Elswood, Head of Christie’s International Wine Department.
If even half of what’s being reported is accurate, an ever growing percentage of the world’s greatest and most sought-after bottles are now gracing the tables of the most prominent collectors in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore and other Asian hot-spots with increasing frequency. In fact, ‘collectors’ is not really an accurate description of this newly prominent group – they would more correctly be designated as ‘consumers’ – because that’s what they do! Consume.
Not for the majority of these new enthusiasts are thoughts of amassing a cellar, or speculating for investment or cellaring young wines for the future. Their main focus is to acquire the best wines available and, shortly thereafter to consume them – and then buy some more. It is a wholly different approach to the more established wine buyer in Europe or the US and is driven substantially by the desire to own and consume ‘the best of the best’.
To service this voracious demand, we have seen a frenetic and extraordinary range of fine wine auctions being established, principally via the convenient and newly tax-free wine friendly portal of Hong Kong. The volume of auction activity there now eclipses both London and New York in value with substantial amounts of the most in demand wines being sold, mostly with great success, under the gavels of numerous different auctioneers. It remains to be seen however, if the growth of the last, frantic 18-month period can be sustained in the future.
What is guaranteed is the fact that the new demand from the Asian ‘tiger’ economies will re-shape the global supply of fine wines over the next decade and probably beyond. Any commodity produced in limited quantities, as are fine wines, tend to end up in the hands of the highest bidder, in the same way as art or jewels gravitate towards the wealthiest and most ardent collectors.
Acquiring the world’s rarest and finest wines has never been an easy task – and it looks as if it’s about to become a whole lot harder.
Christie’s next auction of Finest and Rarest Wines in Hong Kong will take place on Saturday, November 28, 2009.