Four lots of Romanée-Conti led the charge to the top-grossing wine auction ever.

Credit: South China Morning Post / Contributor/Getty Images

Back in January, Sotheby’s emailed me with an intriguing subject line: The global auction house was billing its forthcoming “Transcendent Wines” weekend as “the highest-estimated wine auction in history” — expecting to bring in up to $26 million. Of course, estimates are one thing: Reality is often times much different. And that was the case here — Transcendent Wines didn’t bring in $26 million… It grossed nearly $30 million, once again proving just how wild pricing has become in the world of fine wines.

Leading the charge at this past weekend’s auction in Hong Kong were two French producers wine lovers know extremely well — whether or not they can afford to try them: Burgundy’s Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Bordeaux’s Mouton Rothschild. Of the top ten most expensive lots, the first four were Romanée-Conti, followed by three from Mouton Rothschild, and then three more from Romanée-Conti.

Though none of these mostly 12-bottle lots came anywhere close to grabbing the record-setting $558,000 a single bottle of 1945 Romanée-Conti was sold for in October, the most expensive one — 12 bottles of Romanée Conti 1990 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti — still went for the kind of money you could buy a house for in many parts of the U.S.: $347,520, nearly twice the low-end estimate. That kind of markup was par for the course: The 2,574 lots — which included wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhone, Champagne, and Italy — sold for 169 percent above the low-end estimates.

“Transcendent Wines was aptly named, setting the record for the highest value private wine collection ever sold at auction at US$30 million, beating the total achieved at Sotheby’s in 2016 for the William I Koch sale,” Jamie Ritchie, Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s Wine, stated. “This result continues our record-setting trend and marks a significant moment in the history of wine auctions, presenting a new benchmark in the wine industry. The scale, quality and value of this collection is totally unprecedented, and the superb result is a fitting outcome, as collectors continue to compete for the world’s greatest wines.”

Ritchie then addressed the question we all wonder but dare not to ask: “To present the most important single-cellar collections at auction is to quench the insatiable thirst of today’s enlightened collectors who are buying to open and enjoy the bottles,” he added, “a sentiment very much in tune with the man who put together this outstanding collection.” But good luck trying to find out who these wine lovers are and convincing them to invite you over for dinner: The top ten lots were all sold to private buyers in Asia.