A 73-year-old bottle of French Burgundy became the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold at auction, fetching $558,000.
The bottle of 1945 Romanee-Conti sold at Sotheby's for more than 17 times its original estimate of $32,000. Another bottle of the same wine and vintage went for $496,000 moments later at Saturday's auction.
The bottles shattered the previous record for the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold — a 3-liter (known as "large format") bottle of 1945 Mouton-Rothschild that sold at Sotheby's in 2007 for $310,000.
The sales — along with a bottle of whiskey that sold at Sotheby's on Saturday for $843,200 — shows that demand for the rarest and best trophy wines and spirits remains strong despite global stock market jitters and trade wars. Demand for the top vintage French wines — especially Burgundy — is largely being driven by China, so the sales also suggest that while China's economy may be slowing, China's rich are still spending.
"The new world record established in today's sale is further proof that the demand for wine and spirits of exceptional quality is at an all-time high, and that global collectors are willing to go the extra mile to acquire the rarest bottles of any kind," said Jamie Ritchie, worldwide head of Sotheby's Wine.
Romanee-Conti has become the king of collectible wines, and the 1945 is considered its most prized vintage. Romanee-Conti only produced 600 bottles in 1945, which was the last year before the producer pulled up its older, prized vines and replaced them with younger vines in 1947.
While wealthy Chinese wine buyers drove up prices of Bordeaux in the early 2000s, they quickly shifted to Burgundy, which are much more scarce. Domaine de la Romanee-Conti has led Sotheby's Wine Annual Market Report, which looks at sales and price performance, as a top producer since 2013.
Sotheby's described the 1945 vintage as "concentrated and exotic, with seemingly everlasting power — a wine at peace with itself."
Adding to the value of the bottles sold Saturday was its ownership or "provenance." They were sold from the personal cellar of Robert Drouhin, a legend in the wine world and the patriarch of the family-run Maison Joseph Drouhin in Burgundy. Drouhin originally bought the bottles directly from Romanee Conti, which made for what Sotheby's called "pristine provenance."