Danny McIlwraith from Bonhams with the world's rarest and most valuable whisky, The Macallan Valerio Adami after it was sold for £848,750 at the Bonhams Whisky Sale.
Andrew Milligan - PA Images/Getty Images

Those million-dollar bottles of whiskey probably didn't hurt.

Mike Pomranz
December 19, 2018

Though the state of the global economy in general is certainly up for some debate, at least one sector had an outstanding 2018: wine and spirits auctions. This week, some major auction houses have capped things off by toasting their own record-breaking years.

If you’ve followed booze auctions, you’re probably not surprised: Records were repeatedly broken and re-broken throughout the 2018 calendar year including an unprecedented run on Scotch, a new record for Japanese whiskey, and even a new leader in the very straightforward designation of most expensive bottle of wine when a standard bottle of red Burgundy sold for $558,000 in an auction from Sotheby’s.

So speaking of Sotheby’s, the global auction house announced on Monday that its Wine division had surpassed annual sales of $100 million in a single year for the first time. “2018 has been a record-setting year for Sotheby's Wine in all areas of our business, and surpassing $100 million is a significant milestone in the growth of our wine and spirits business,” Worldwide Head of Sotheby's Wine Jamie Ritchie said in a statement.

Other auction houses had amazing years as well. Chicago-based Hart Davis Hart, the largest auctioneer of wine in the U.S., also announced that they set a record with over $67 million in live auction sales as well as another $9.2 million in mobile-only auctions. “2018 has been the most successful year for us, and we are incredibly grateful to our bidders and consignors who have helped make that possible,” CEO Paul Hart said according to The Drinks Business. “The fine wine market is strong and growing, and we are honored to be the leading auction house in the U.S. for another year.”

Acker Merrall & Condit – known as “America’s oldest wine shop and the world’s leading wine auction house” – offered up a nearly identical sentiment in revealing that they too had hauled in over $100 million this year ($105 million to be precise) in total sales in the U.S. and Hong Kong. “2018 was an amazing year for fine and rare wine, with demand increasing to unprecedented levels for many of the world’s most collectible wines,” Chairman John Kapon was quoted as saying.

The overall numbers won’t arrive until next year, but it would seem that wine auction sales have a chance to break the all-time high which was set in 2011 with $478 million in sales, according to Wine Spectator. Still, wine pales in comparison to fine art which had auction sales of nearly $15 billion in 2017, according to Artprice.

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