Bill Koch’s Wine Collection Fetches $22M in Sotheby’s Auction


Bill Koch WinesFine wines, especially the rarer ones, are fetching high prices recently on the market. Last week, 22 May 2016, a special private collection of Romanée-Conti, the most expensive, prestigious, and sought-after wine in the world, was sold in an auction in Geneva.

The entire collection had more than 1,400 bottles of the rare burgundy wine, raising about 2 million Swiss francs, or £4.3 million.

Over in New York, renowned auction house Sotheby’s held a successful auction, raising a staggering amount that went over seven figures.

The Bill Koch Collection

Sotheby’s New York auctioned off 2,730 lots (over 20,000 bottles) of fine and rare Wines from the Cellar of William I. Koch. The bidding lasted for 27 hours over three days (19-21 May 2016).

Total sales fetched a staggering US$21.9 million, with 740 people from 23 different countries submitting over 20,000 bids over the duration of the auction. The billionaire’s private collection included wines amassed over decades by one of America’s most high-profile wine collectors. More than being the twin of David Koch and siblings of Charles and David Koch, Bill made a name for himself not least for helping expose counterfeiters of wine fines who were attempting to damage the industry.

The consignment for the whole collection topped the pre-sales estimate of $15m by 46%. The sale was one of the highest ever achieved by a wine auction.

What made the Bill Koch Collection special was the breadth, depth, and quality of the wine selection. Ever since, Koch only sourced the best wines from the best wine regions in the world. The billionaire stores his collection in a high-tech, modern cellar under his mansion in Palm Beach, Florida.

Koch became known in the wine world after launching a campaign to go after counterfeit wines, after discovering his collection included numerous counterfeits. For the auction, he teamed up with Sotheby’s and went to great lengths to ensure the authenticity of the consigned wines.

Glorious Moments with Wines

“With around 43,000 bottles I realized I could not possibly consume everything in my cellar,” Koch said in a statement.

“So I am delighted to offer this selection to allow collectors all over the world to enjoy the glorious moments that come with these wines.”

The Bill Koch Collection consists largely of French wines, weighted towards first-growths. There were also a number of classified Bordeaux wines that included a strong selection of premium Burgundies from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, red wines from the Rhône region, California and Italian estate wines, as well as Vintage Port.

Showstoppers in a Bottle

Bill Koch AuctionThe whole collection was exemplary, but there were a number of showstoppers. This included 10 bottles of the celebrated Château Mouton Rothschild 1945, considered one of the greatest vintages of the last century. Pre-sale estimates for this wine was pegged at $120,000, with the final bids reaching $343,000. The winning offer was from an anonymous– and determined– buyer who made the bid via phone.

While first-growths and their equivalents came out strong during the bidding, there was also a strong demand for second-growths. A case of Château Ducru-Beaucaillou 2000, for example, was sold for $3,910, well above the high pre-sale estimate of $2,200.

A case of 1978  Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC) Montrachet sold for $147,000 against the generous estimate of $75,000. Large-format wines from DRC were highly in-demand during the auction; a methuselah-sized bottle of 1991 DRC Romanée-Conti was sold for $159,200 compared to the pre-sale estimate of $100,000.

Meanwhile, six magnum-sized bottles of 1989 Henri Jayer Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux raised $171,500 (61% above its estimate).

Sharing the Passion

Asked if the increase in sale prices compared to estimate were surprising, Sotheby’s Wine CEO Jamie Ritchie answered with an emphatic no. “This was an opportunity of a lifetime for collectors,” Ritchie told Wine Spectator.

“They were prepared to spend more money to acquire wines of impeccable quality that rarely surface at auction.”

Reflecting at the end of the auction, Koch said, “Collecting and enjoying wine has been one of the great loves of my life. It is very gratifying to see so many people from around the world that share my passion.”