Sotheby’s Wine and Spirits Auction Sales Reach a Record $159M

By | 12 April 2024

Sotheby’s announced that their global wine and spirits auction sales reached a unprecedented $159m (£127m) in 2023, up $1m from the previous year’s total.

Remarkably, it marks the third straight year that Sotheby’s has broken its own record for wine and spirits auction sales. This feat comes in the wake of data illustrating a decline in fine wine pricing in the secondary market over the last year.

According to Sotheby’s, there was a 17% increase in the number of auction lots offered in 2023 compared to the previous year. The auction house also drew attention to the substantial growth of its wine and spirits department over the past ten years.

Back in 2013, the company’s total auction sales figured at $58m, soaring to $118m in 2019, the year before the global pandemic, as revealed by their reports.

‘We sold as many wines & spirits by value in one extraordinary week in 2023, as the whole of 2013,’ said Nick Pegna, who last year became global head of Sotheby’s wine and spirits, succeeding Jamie Ritchie in the role.

In a ranking of the best-selling wine producers by total auction sales in 2023, Champagne house Krug entered the top 10 for the first time.

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is a regular fixture in the ranking, but Sotheby’s said auction sales of the Burgundy producer’s wines still rose by 40% year-on-year.

Auction sales attributed to single-owner collections have seen particularly strong sales growth at Sotheby’s, accounting for $113m last year, up from $99m in 2022 and $75m in 2021.

Sotheby’s’ spirits auction sales, which are largely driven by rare whiskies, have seen a considerable growth. In 2023, these sales reached $33m, a rise from $31m in 2022 and a huge leap from $4m in 2017.

In the previous year, the sales total included a bottle of The Macallan 1926, which had a Valerio Adami label. This bottle was sold for $2.7m in November which set a new record at auctions for any bottle of spirit or wine.

However, there were some signs indicating a potential slowdown in the overall market. Knight Frank, a global consultancy, introduced a rare whisky index that indicated a 9% decline in value in 2023, as per the group’s Wealth Report 2024.

Fine wine prices seem to have taken a hit in the secondary market over the past year, according to several key indicators. This comes at a time when trading reports have been quieter than usual.

Liv-ex, a worldwide marketplace for trading, announced earlier this month that their Liv-ex 100 index experienced a 0.4% growth in March, marking the first monthly increase in a year. However, the index’s value still experienced a depreciation of 14% over the course of a year.

Pegna from Sotheby’s informed Decanter towards the end of last year that there’s a continued interest from buyers for auction lots perceived as ‘well-priced’. There’s also a considerable interest in some wines due to their unavailability in the market.

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