26 April 2016

Sotheby’s sells ultra-rare Bordeaux for hundreds of thousands of dollars. But its President of Wine, Jamie Ritchie, says there are also fantastic values to be had—if you know where to look.

Most auction news is about cases of ultra-rare, ultra-expensive wine. Are there still any steals to be had?

Always. There’s always value to be found, whether it’s a vintage, a winery or an area. For instance, wines that aren’t the main focus of a collection: Mixed lots [a case of 12 different bottles, for example] can be fun to drink and an incredible value. We had a lot of five bottles—1978 and 1981 Ducru-Beaucaillous, three 1981 Gruaud Laroses—that sold for $49 a bottle recently. [2014 Ducru-Beaucaillou is about $110].

What about the most expensive bottle you’ve ever sold?

Lafite 1869, which we sold in 2010 in Hong Kong. It went for almost $233,000 a bottle. It’s still the most expensive single wine that’s ever been sold at auction. And we sold three of them, one after another, all to the same buyer. That sale was nuts. It was at the peak of the wine-auction frenzy in China. We’d estimated the wine would go for more like $5,000. But I’m not complaining.

For those who don’t feel like spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on one bottle of wine, what would you suggest?

People forget that Bordeaux under $25 can be a really good drink. At our retail store I could find 10 fantastic examples of under-$25 Bordeaux easily; a couple of my favorites are the 2010 Château Barreyre and the 2011 Divin de Corbin. I defy you not to finish either of them! Also, at auctions, consider good but overlooked vintages. With Bordeaux, the ’01s are completely overshadowed by 2000. The 1998 vintage is sort of another lost vintage in terms of the market. And there are some super 2004s that are drinking very well right now, too.

Jamie Ritchie’s 7 Favorite Wines Under $50