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Auden Cellars/Sotheby’s (15/10 per cent buyer’s premium) January 27 Finest and Rarest Wines auction in New York maintained the very low unsold rates that have characterised American wine dispersals in recent years, though there was nothing too hysterical in terms of individual results and the final total of $1.56m (£1.1m) was below $2m levels seen in the late ’90s. Of the 1061 lots offered, just 89 (5.5 per cent) were left unsold.

With American buyers religiously following Robert Parker’s percentage points ratings, there tend to be few surprises at these New York sales and the predictable star was a case of 1949 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild – Parker rates this at 91/100 – which sold to the US trade for $19,500 (£13,730) against an estimate of $10,000-16,000. The retention of the original wooden case and straw wrappers was a key factor in this over-estimate price. [Predictably all five of the top-selling wines at this New York sale were rated by Parker at over 90/100 with a further $13,000 (£9,155) given for a case of 1959 Chateau Latour (95/100) and $12,000 (£8450) for a case of 1982 Chateau Petrus (98/100).]

“Bordeaux is rock solid for the vintages that count,” observes Robert Sleight of Sotheby’s New York Wine department, who maintains that the vagaries of the American stock market have had little effect on wine sales.

“Our clients are buying at a different level,” says Sleigh. “People who stop buying art can still afford a case of wine or two. We’ve had big dives in the Nasdaq the day before a sale and it hasn’t affected things. The people who buy in this market are pretty recession-proof.”

It will be interesting to see if American-based wine auctioneers like Robert Sleight can still say this if the unthinkable were to happen and the US economy does slip into recession.

Exchange rate: £1 = $1.42