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Weak pound buoys UK's fine wine auction market

Published:  08 January, 2009

Auctions of fine and rare wines in the UK are bucking a global downward trend as international buyers move their trading to London to take advantage of the weak pound. 

Against a backdrop of rapidly falling sales in auction houses in the US, both the UK's major auction houses - Christie's and Sotheby's - have reported improved sales during 2008. 

Christie's saw wine sales in its London salesroom for 2008 rise 10% against 2007 to £11.2m, while Sotheby's saw an increase of 17% to £12.1m, with the latter boosted by a two-day auction of 1,000 lots worth £1.4m in December.

Total sales in New York, by contrast, were down by 27% to £73m, according to a survey carried out by Wine Spectator magazine, while the international total fell 8% to £186m. 

Both Christie's and Sotheby's said the weak pound had helped their London operations. "We have certainly seen some significant growth in the number of European buyers bidding in our sales towards the end of 2008 due to the strength of the euro," Christie's wine specialist Chris Munro said. 

Serena Sutcliffe, head of Sotheby's International Wine Department, said: "Sotheby's London Wine Department has had a fantastic year. Demand was buoyant through most of the year, with strong prices being realised for Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux.

"Our buyers in 2008 have been truly global, with tax changes in Hong Kong and the strength of the dollar drawing in collectors from Asia and the US to London sales in ever increasing numbers," Sutcliffe added."

Among the biggest single lots of the year were two bottles of Krug Private Cuvée 1952 (£2,530, Sotheby's); a single Methuselah of Romanée-Conti 1988 (£25,300, Sotheby's); and a 20-case lot of Château Mouton-Rothschild 1986 (£112,700, Christie's).