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BBR takes the plunge at $3.9m Napa Auction

Published:  23 February, 2020

British merchant Berry Bros & Rudd was among the winning bidders at the annual Premiere Napa Valley Auction on Saturday, which raised $3.9m in support of Napa Valley Vintners.

The London and Hong Kong-based company acquired lots of Heitz and Flora Springs against some stiff bidding, with a view to offering private clients "something special".

The event, which crowns a week of tastings and workshops across Napa Valley, is America’s leading wine futures auction, with this year seeing 201 lots under the hammer as wineries put up unique blends from the yet-to-be-bottled 2018 vintage.

The organisers of the Premiere Napa Auction are keen to attract European bidders, along with greater numbers of Asian purchasers, to grow international recognition of both the auction and Napa’s premium wines.

This push comes against the backdrop of a broader push by Napa vintners to drive exports, as domestic wine sales decline for a second year in a row.

Berry Bros & Rudd's Nick Pegna, who has recently returned to the UK office after heading up Asia sales from Hong Kong, said that the company was keen to test the water and see if its private client base would buy in, before taking a view with regard to future participation.

Pegna was clearly delighted at bagging the two lots, though.

“We acquired the Heitz for a number of reasons,” said Pegna, having secured the 60-bottle lot at a hammer price of $16,000.

“This lot was the historic C-91 parcel and blend, last made in 1969, so a unique lot – and furthermore, we have some historic stock of Heitz in our cellars.

“The other lot was Flora Springs, which was recently acquired by the Cathiard family of Smith Haut Lafitte fame.”

The auction lots were based on blends from the 2018 vintage, which revealed itself as having a compelling mix of freshness, backbone and intensity at the pre-auction tastings.

The highest bid went to a 60-bottle lot from Rudd ($120,000), which crowned a roll call of top dollar names including Darioush, Shafer Vineyards, Silver Oak, Lewis Cellars, OVID Napa Valley, ZD Wines and TOR.

Commenting on the auction, Linda Reiff, president and CEO of the Napa Valley Vintners, said: “In the end, this business is all about relationships - the relationship of the grape grower and the winemaker, the winemaker and the buyer, the buyer and the consumer.”

“Our vintners invest time, energy and heart into building those bonds this week and throughout the year. Today’s auction demonstrated that. We’re happy with how well the entire week went and are grateful for the auction’s final results.”

More information on the results of the Premiere Napa Valley Auction can be found here.