Italian wine at auction 2007-2011

Table 1: Top 10 most expensive Italian lots sold at auction, 2007-2011
Wine Date sold Lot price Auction house
Sassicaia 1985 May 2010 £19,420 Acker Merrall & Condit (HK)
Barolo Monfortino Riserva
1955 (Jeroboam)
March 2007 £18,279 Zachys NY
Sassicaia 1985 May 2007 £18,060 Zachys NY
Sassicaia 1985
May 2007 £18,060 Zachys NY
Sassicaia 1985 April 2009 £15,762 Zachys NY
Barolo Monfortino Riserva
1952 (Jeroboam)
March 2007 £15,232 Acker Merrall & Condit (NY)
Sassicaia 1985 April 2009 £13,667 Sotheby's HK
Sassicaia 1985 March 2009 £13,667 Sotheby's HK
Sassicaia 1985 November 2010 £13,123 Sotheby's NY
Sassicaia 1985 November 2010 £12,868 Christie's HK
Source: Fabian Cobb

THERE WERE approximately 1,200 lots of Italian wine that came to auction in 2011 – less than 3% by volume of all auction lots last year. Nonetheless, for fans of some of the scarcer Italian wines this might be the only opportunity to acquire certain bottles. While a number of wines of Brunello di Montalcino come on to the market, because these are widely distributed among many producers including Biondi Santi, Frescobaldi, Giulio Salvioni, Livio Sassetti and Antinori, they do not form part of the sample used in this article. Note 1Unmixed, non-verticals from Sotheby's, Christie's, Acker Merrall & Condit, Zachys, Hart Davis Hart.

Table 2: Top 10 most traded Italian wines at auction, 2007-2011, by value (all vintages)
Wine Lots Value
Sassicaia 1076 £1,723,695
Masseto Tenuta dell'Ornellaia 457 £888,247
Ornellaia 547 £524,249
Barolo Monfortino Riserva 203 £469,439
Barolo Sperss 322 £409,988
Solaia 379 £390,671
Barbaresco Sori San Lorenzo 282 £387,612
Barbaresco Sori Tildin 243 £351,579
Tignanello 384 £233,962
Gaja Barbaresco 235 £227,475
Source: Fabian Cobb

For the purposes of analysing producers, labels, values and vintages the list has been restricted to some top dozen or so which make up a major proportion of all auction lots. Amarone has also been excluded because lots are still very limited (Allegrini, Dal Forno and Quintarelli being the main producers) and the numbers of lots, especially after taking into account specific wines and vintages, are small.

The most expensive lot sold at auction during this period was a 12-bottle case of Sassicaia 1985 sold by Acker Merrall & Condit in Hong Kong in May 2010 for nearly £19,500, including buyer’s premium (see Table 1). Sassicaia 1985 is the most traded wine from the entire sample, 2007-2011, selling 166 lots worth almost £750,000 (see Table 4). Judging by the volume of lots handled by the top auction houses for Italian wines, these wines are not, as yet, so highly sought after in the Far East. Zachys (NY), Hart Davis Hart (Chicago), Sotheby’s (London), Acker Merrall & Condit (NY), Sotheby’s New York, Zachys Los Angeles, Christie’s New York and Christie’s London. Zachys and Hart Davis Hart lead the way by a considerable margin over the other houses. However, looking at the prices obtained generally, there can be considerable interest generated at any auction, at any venue. The flip side to this is that lots may be completely overlooked, for whatever reason, and prices can fluctuate considerably.

Table 3: Wines that have shown the largest price increases (Jan-Dec 2011)
Barolo Monfortino Riserva, Giacomo Conterno 1999 37%
Barbaresco Santo Stefano di Neive Riserva, Bruno Giacosa 1985 60%
Masseto Tenuta dell'Ornellaia, Frescobaldi 2001 25%
Tignanello, Angelo Gaja 1997 40%
Barbaresco Sori Tildin, Angelo Gaja 1997 23%
Masseto Tenuta dell'Ornellaia, Frescobaldi 1998 70%
Source: Fabian Cobb

Clearly, Italian wines have some way to go in the auction market but if the quality, quantity and availability of offers improves in 2012 there is every reason to suppose the trends will continue. Barolo has a considerable upside and Tuscan wines (for example, Tignanello with 127 hectares of vineyards), Sassicaia and Ornellaia will continue to confirm their place in the worldwide auction market. This is a market which is relatively undeveloped and for collectors or investors, Table 3 shows that picking the right wine could yield some handsome profits in the future.

This article first appeared in the May edition of the drinks business Hong Kong.

Table 4: Top 10 most traded wines at auction 2007-2011
(by wine and vintage)
Wine Year Lots Value
Sassicaia 1985 166 £749,414
Barolo Spers 1997 99 £205,033
Masseto Tenuta dell'Ornellaia 1997 63 £169,359
Sassicaia 1997 122 £166,938
Solaia 1997 122 £163,453
Masseto Tenuta dell'Ornellaia 2001 43 £144,640
Ornellaia 1997 103 £124,473
Sassicaia 1990 89 £117,927
Masseto Tenuta dell'Ornellaia 1998 67 £116,187
Ornellaia 1998 93 £87,100
Source: Fabian Cobb
Table 5: Top 10 most popular vintages of
Italian wines sold at auction 2007-2011
Year No. of lots
1997 806
1998 454
1990 392
2000 357
1999 303
1985 299
1995 280
2001 275
1996 218
2004 214
Source: Fabian Cobb

Content derestricted August 11, 2015


1 Unmixed, non-verticals from Sotheby's, Christie's, Acker Merrall & Condit, Zachys, Hart Davis Hart