Thursday, May 22, 2014, 09:00
Football legend shares a taste of victory
By Timothy Chui in Hong Kong

Football legend shares a taste of victory
Ex Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson takes his seat before the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford in Manchester on March 25, 2014. (AFP)

A selection of wines from the cellar of Sir Alex Ferguson, former manager of Manchester United of the English Premier League, will go under the gavel at Christie’s Spring Auction in Hong Kong this Saturday.

The auction house is hoping this year’s sale will be bigger than last year’s HK$3.2 billion. Christie’s is still recovering from its low point, when its 2011 auction took in only HK$2.7 billion, down from HK$4 billion the previous year.

The lion’s share of Ferguson’s cellar will be auctioned in Hong Kong with 257 lots on offer.

A London showing offers up another 140 lots and 85 more lots will be sold at an online auction.

“Sir Alex’s cellar is filled with blue chip stock, the same stock that is in great demand in the Hong Kong sales room so we proposed the (percentage) split and Sir Alex agreed,” Christie’s Head of Wine China Simon Tam told China Daily.

The collection includes a range of fine wines featuring Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Burgundies and Finest First Growth Bordeaux from the 1986 to 2011, during which Ferguson guided Manchester United to two UEFA Champions League titles, 12 Premier League champions, five FA Cup victories and a FIFA Club World Cup.

Highlights include six bottles of Romanee-Conti Grand Cru 1999 which is expected to fetch HK$850,000 while a case of Petrus 2000 is being offered with a HK$550,000 estimate.

China has gone mad for European wines over the past few years, inspired by the abolition of the wine duty in Hong Kong in 2007 and the inroads Christie’s has made in Shanghai.

An increasing number of collectors worldwide coupled natural limitations on availability meant prices for investment grade wines, or blue chip wines, are generally on the rise, BWC Management & Consulting senior market analyst Daniel Paterson said.

“We have seen ‘staggering levels’ of increased interest from the BRIC economies as well as in Europe and the United States. The Chinese, Russian, Indian and wealthy South American countries are also consolidating their positions as both consumers and investors.”

A case purchase in 2001 for 1,000 pounds ($1,688) would have sold for a healthy 2,760 pounds last year — a return of approximately 180 percent — though most top grade fine wines can cost more than 5,000 pounds a case these days, BWC Management & Consulting senior broker Samuel Cheung said.

The Chinese are also marching up the supply chain for fine wines purchased both for enjoyment and investment.

There was a wave of Chinese investment in the Bordeaux wine growing region last year, with more than 20 transactions in 2013 according to luxury real estate service Maxwell-Storrie-Baynes.

Estates Domaine Andron (AOC Haut-Médoc) and Château Mylord (AOC Bordeaux Superieur) were sold late last year to undisclosed mainland and Hong Kong investors with a larger part of production now diverted to China.

Moutai producer and Guizhou industrialist Zhong Huaili acquired the 247-acre (100-hectare) Château Loudenne in Médoc, following his purchase of Château Dallau in Fronsac the previous year.

Pharmaceutical tycoon You Yi and You Hongtao have purchased several estates since 2012, including some 559 acres spread out over five Châteaux.

Next week also marks the return of Vinexpo to Hong Kong. Floor area for this year’s event has been increased 50 percent over Vinexpo’s last showing in Hong Kong in 2012. A record 17,000 wine trade visitors are expected.

“Hong Kong is now an essential cog among the wheels of trade and distribution of wine throughout Asia-Pacific,” said Guillaume Deglise, CEO of Vinexpo Asia-Pacific. “While the expo is obviously a way of gaining direct access to China, it also raises profiles in the emerging markets of Southeast Asia. Bear in mind that 40 percent of wine consumed in Asia is outside China.”