Wine Sale Fetches $1.8 Million for Charity

A charity auction of more than 3,000 bottles of Bordeaux and Champagne from the private cellar of Albert Frere, a Belgian billionaire, raised a higher-than- expected 1.1 million pounds ($1.8 million) in London.

Ninety-seven percent of the 454 lots found buyers at the Sotheby’s sale yesterday, with a top price of 29,900 pounds paid for a 12- bottle case of Chateau Petrus from the 1989 vintage, estimated at 15,000 pounds to 20,000 pounds.

All final prices include a 15 percent buyer’s fee.

Wine is one of the few international auction markets that have maintained price levels and success rates during the economic crisis. Boosted by Asian buying, an average of more than 95 percent of bottles offered at wine auctions held by Sotheby’s and Christie’s International in London, New York and Hong Kong this year have found buyers.

“The market seems to have gone up a gear since the summer,” said Stephen Mould, Sotheby’s European head of wine, in an interview after the auction. “I would guess at least half the lots at this sale went to Asia,” he said.

The sale, expected to fetch as much as 983,480 pounds ($1.6 million), was the third held by Sotheby’s to boost a charity named for Frere’s son, who died in a car crash 10 years ago. The Charles-Albert Frere Foundation supports children in difficulty and disadvantaged adults.

Frere, 83, is co-owner of the Chateau Cheval Blanc vineyard in Bordeaux with LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, the world’s biggest luxury group. A six-bottle case of Cheval Blanc 1990, sourced, like all the wines in the auction, directly from its chateau, sold for 8,050 pounds. In June, a 12-bottle case of the same vintage procured from Cheval Blanc sold at Sotheby’s, London, for 11,270 pounds, said Mould.

Chateau Lafite

A 12-bottle case of Chateau Lafite 2000 fetched 13,225 pounds, against a high estimate of 9,000 pounds.

“Asians like Lafite because it was top of the original 1855 classification of Bordeaux,” said Mould. “They’ve also got a taste for it. They’re not so keen on Champagne,” he said.

Most successful of the Champagne lots was a six-bottle case Dom Perignon’s 1996 rose which took 1,495 pounds. The presale valuation had been 800 pounds to 1,100 pounds. Thirteen lots of Taittinger 2004 failed to sell, said Sotheby’s.

Frere, one of Belgium’s richest men, has a net worth of $2.4 billion, said Forbes in its 2009 listing of the world’s billionaires. He and his family control the publicly traded investment company Cie. Nationale a Portefeuille, with interests in the media, utilities and oil industries. His wine auctions in 2003 and 2006 raised 822,634 pounds and 1.8 million pounds respectively for his charity.