WINE AUCTION SEASON FALL 2011 – by Stephen Ranger

Stephen Ranger


Unlike many other jurisdictions across the world the auction season for fine wine in Ontario is short and very sweet, with the premiere auctions of fine wine taking place within two weeks. During these two weeks over 2000 lots of the worlds greatest wines will be sold. If you are a lover of mature and collectible wines, saddle up and get ready to spend some serious money for otherwise unattainable wines at prices far below what you would have to spend on the international market. Don’t despair bargain hunters, there is lots there for you too.

The two major auctions of the season, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, taking place on October 13 and the annual Vintages Auction on October 21, 22 and 23 are a wine lover’s dream. Both these sales take place at Waddington’s auction house at 275 King Street East. I am the auctioneer for both these great sales.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra Fine Wine Auction

TSO_Auction_BannerFeaturing 233 lots the TSO sale, now in it’s 21st year, is always a highlight of the season. Drawing on donations of fine wine from Toronto area collectors and philanthropists, the sale this year boasts an extensive collection of trophy Bordeaux and Burgundy as well as some great lots of collectible, ready to drink wines.

Because of its’ charitable status, the TSO sale offers buyers the luxury of no buyer’s premiums (the standard fee levied by the auction house) or sales tax. The sale this year is very much dominated by the wines of Bordeaux. In fact, just under half the sale is Bordeaux based. Highlights include a full case of 1993 Chateau Mouton Rothschild in original wooden case, Chateau Lafite Rothschild (the darling of Asian collectors) from 1986, 1994 1998 and 1999 will be hotly contested. Be sure to check out the lots featuring the sublime Chateau Leoville Las Cases 1982, a 100 point Parker rated wine.

Bargain hunters will want to check out the offering from the Rhone, Italy and California as well. The mixed lots of cult Italian wine such as Quintarelli Valpolicella and Castello Di Ama Vigna L’Apparita represent great opportunities.

The sale is catalogued and appraised by Robert Jull of Vinifera Wine Services who has followed the international wine scene for decades. Rob knows how to put a sale together and this offering is tighter and more focused than in previous years.

Catalogues are available for purchase from the TSO or can be downloaded from here.

 Fines and Rarest Wines Vintages Auction 2011

Vintages AuctionVintages auction this season may be the best offering I have ever seen in terms of both the volume of great wines and overall quality. Despite economic uncertainty in many places in the world, the international wine market seems to be (so far), largely unaffected, as collectors and speculators appear to be undeterred in pursuit of vinous greatness. Auction houses like Sotheby’s and Hart Davis Hart in Chicago continue to report on auctions in which the offerings are 100% sold! After all, there is the dilemma of an ever decreasing supply, and what I will term the China factor. All the world’s major auction houses are focused on Asia; catering to collectors whose taste and wallet for the prestige wines of Bordeaux, especially Chateau Lafite, Margaux, Mouton Rothschild and Latour, as well as Romanee Conte have caused prices to rise by 20% each year for the last five years. Lafite, in particular has seen exponential increase in prices.  Cases of the sensational 1982 regularly crest $60,000.  Lot 227 in the Vintages sale in original wood is estimated to sell at $40,000/60,000. There are great wines in great quantity here.

The problem the average consumer will have with the Vintages auction is where to start. There is just so much wine and there is literally something for every taste and budget and the bulging catalogue of 1900 lots can seem overwhelming.

Quilceda CreekLet’s focus for now on wines for every day drinking. Look for mixed lots and lots featuring verticals (wines from the same chateaux from different vintages) and horizontals (wines from different chateaux from the same vintage).  Virtually every session of the sale is packed full of these little gems. Lot 1339 features a 14 bottle vertical of Washington state cult wine Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon (estimate $2200/2600).  12 of these wines are rated 95 points or higher by Robert Parker. If that doesn’t suit your budget how about a mixed case lot of highly rated 2005 Bordeaux (lot 1494) estimated to sell for $600/700.

For buyers unused to commercial wine auctions there are a few things to nota bene. You will pay a premium of 17% as well as the HST on each lot for the privilege of bidding at the Vintages auction. It is well within international norms and is a bargain compared with buying wines on the international market. You can pick up your wines in November from the LCBO warehouse by appointment.

If you are starting a cellar or a seasoned collector, this is an event not to be missed. One of the unsung pleasures of this sale is the luxury of spending a day buying wonderful wine, sipping some great wine while you do it, and knowing at the end of the day, you will have stocked your cellar with wines you can’t buy anywhere else.

Catalogues are available for purchase from Vintages or can be downloaded from here .