Which is the best wine to invest in right now? This estate is ruling the auctions
Domaine de la Romanee-Conti has been rewriting auction records – and it shows no signs of abating. Should you add a few bottles to your collection?
Even if you aren’t a serious wine collector (yet), chances are you would have heard of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. The Grand Cru estate in Burgundy is known as one of the finest wine producers in the world. It inevitably pops up in wine conversations about Burgundy or Pinot Noir, its interlocuters referring to the wine by its acronym DRC; a term, or rather, a code, that separates the wine geeks from the newbies.
In recent years, the wines have been setting new records at auctions, a stage traditionally dominated by rare and top Bordeaux elixirs. In 2018, a bottle of Romanee-Conti 1945 sold for US$558,000 (S$770,000) at Sotheby’s New York, making it the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold at an auction.
In April this year, Sotheby’s Hong Kong set a world record for a sale of a single owner wine series (a private wine collection that included top labels from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, and the Rhone Valley, including more than 250 lots from Domaine de la Romanee-Conti) that earned a combined total of HK$273,115,578 (S$49 million).
The sale was spearheaded by the strong showing of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti: Three 12-bottle lots of Romanee-Conti 1990 sold for HK$2,728,000 each, while a 12-bottle lot of Romanee-Conti 1985 commanded HK$2,356,000.
“Domaine de la Romanee-Conti has historically been considered the pinnacle of Burgundy by connoisseurs around that world – that has no equal,” said Adam Bilbey, head of Sotheby’s Wine, Asia. “[This status], combined with the limited production and increasing interest in Burgundy from around the world, means it continues to be the standard bearer in auctions.”
“Domaine de la Romanee-Conti has historically been considered the pinnacle of Burgundy by connoisseurs around that world – that has no equal.” – Adam Bilbey
In Singapore, Winefield’s Auctioneers, which has an office in Amsterdam, sold an assorted case of 12 bottles of Romanee-Conti 1996 for S$68,400, and a single of bottle of Romanee-Conti 2004 for S$26,400 in July.
“The estate’s key wine, Romanee-Conti Grand Cru, is considered one of the best wines in the world. It is also very rare,” said Milan Veld, director of Winefield’s Auctioneers. “In a good vintage, less than an average of 5,000 bottles are produced. That means all importers of this wine get only a small quantity of it. As it is almost impossible to get any allocation, it’s easier to buy the wine at an auction.” With wine consumption on the uptrend around the world, Veld expects more consumers to seek out the estate’s wines, and thus push up its prices.
Veld notes that younger vintages, which may not be ready to drink, make good wines for investments as their prices tend to go up all the time. According to him, excellent recent vintages from the past three decades are 1990, 1996, 1999, 2005, 2009, and 2015. The other vintages are “also very nice to drink”.
Indeed, the increasing prices of wines from Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – and other top Burgundy domaines in general – aren’t doing any favours for wine collectors like Nicola Lee, a managing director of a property investment company. “From the perspective of a wine collector who buys [wines] to drink, Burgundy has become a real luxury. It now forces me to try new domaines in search of the next ‘Domaine de la Romanee-Conti’,” said Lee.
“From the perspective of a wine collector who buys [wines] to drink, Burgundy has become a real luxury. It now forces me to try new domaines in search of the next ‘Domaine de la Romanee-Conti’.” – Nicola Lee
“It’s always important to check the market price of any wine you bid for, and be aware of the premium one is paying,” said Lee, adding that auction prices “don’t necessarily reflect the market price”. Bilbey emphasises that provenance is key if you are considering purchasing a lot at an auction. “One should always research the purchase history and storage of the wines,” he said.
If you are looking to purchase some Domaine de la Romanee-Conti wines from a wine merchant, with the aim of consigning the ambrosias to an auction in the future, Tan has a piece of advice. “Don’t buy wines just for investment as there are other ways to make money. However, if [you] really must, I’d advise that you always buy your ‘blue chip’ labels from an appointed distributor. If you can’t sell them, at least you can indulge in drinking them. Wines are meant for drinking – buy them to enjoy with like-minded vino lovers.”
“Don’t buy wines just for investment as there are other ways to make money. However, if [you] really must, I’d advise that you always buy your ‘blue chip’ labels from an appointed distributor.” – Kate Tan