Oct. 19 - Global wine auctions and investments may slow next year, as the euro zone crisis and slowdown in the U.S. economy take their toll on the wine industry. Cathy Yang reports.
Sold! 300 bottles of the Lafite goes to a Chinese buyer for nearly 540-thousand dollars. But the price at last month's auction - falls short of Christie's own high estimate. Rival Sotheby's is equally feeling the pinch. It failed to sell out its wines at an auction in Hong Kong for the first time - since it launched wine sales in the city in 2009. SOUNDBITE (English) REUTERS CORRESPONDENT CATHY YANG SAYING: "Buyers at the Sotheby's auction passed up a few lots of Chateau Lafite 2001, choosing instead to focus on other premium vintage wines, such as the '88 D-R-C. Overall demand remained strong with the sale raking in $12.7 million, but it was a sell-out on increased caution from buyers worried over the growing, global economic uncertainty." Pancho Campo is President of The Wine Academy of Spain. SOUNDBITE (English) WINE ACADEMY OF SPAIN PRESIDENT PANCHO CAMPO MW SAYING: "I think the economy has something to do. I was starting to get the feeling that there was a bubble about wine investments and wine auctions. So I think for me, it's a natural trend that has to slow down." Robert Sleigh is Sotheby's Asia Head of Wines. SOUNDBITE (English) SOTHEBY'S WINE AUCTION HEAD OF WINE ASIA ROBERT SLEIGH SAYING: "We've seen three years of historic growth where wines have doubled, tripled, quadrupled in value sometimes and now we've seen some of those prices flatten off during 2011." In the first half of 2011 - wine collectors particularly from Hong Kong, bought more than 200 million dollars worth of fine wines at auction - nearly doubling the amount for the same period last year. The boom in wine auctions have come along with double digit growth in wine consumption in Asia over the past five to 10 years - as the Chinese develop their taste for wines. SOUNDBITE (English) SOTHEBY'S WINE AUCTION HEAD OF WINE ASIA ROBERT SLEIGH SAYING: "I think they're more discerning as well, so some of the lesser vintages of the Lafite which were getting prices of almost the grey vintages have come down a little bit and other wines have moved up, the Latour, other vintages, Mouton, Margaux, Haut Brion have moved up, plus the right bank wines, the Cheval Blanc and Petrus as well. I think again it's a growing sophistication." But Campo says in order to sustain that sophistication and fascination - the global industry has got to get the young ones - those aged 18 or 19 - excited about wine. SOUNDBITE (English) WINE ACADEMY OF SPAIN PRESIDENT PANCHO CAMPO MW SAYING: "Eventually they'll go to university, they'll become CEOs, doctors, architects and that's the kind of people that you want involved in the wine industry." Winemakers are pinning their hopes on Asia as the economies in the U-S and Europe slow wine consumption. But after three years of heady growth in wine auctions and investments - the time may be ripe for the industry to slow in 2012 - but Asia with its discerning Chinese consumers - may still - by far - be the best positioned for the recovery. Cathy Yang, Reuters.