Speaking of the inaugural Phillips-Selkirk wine auction, which was held Nov. 18, it's going to be interesting to see whether St. Louis can earn a spot on the map for auctions of mature, rare or just plain expensive fine wines.
There were numerous bargains to be had, something I attribute to the newness of fine-wine auctions in St. Louis, coupled with an inventory well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and perhaps 50 wine twinks in attendance.
For the couple of hundred lots I sat through out of the more than 400 offered, the bidding frequently closed below the estimate range, although a significant number also went at or above the estimate. And judging by hammer prices listed at the Chicago Wine Co. (www.tcwc.com), one of the leading wine-auction houses in America, the estimates were quite realistic.
For example, a 10-bottle lot of 1990 Chateau Cheval Blanc, a well-regarded vintage of a first-growth Bordeaux, was valued at $3,400-$4,600. The Chicago Wine Co. had recently sold individual bottles at $420. Here, though, the lot was pulled when the auctioneer was unable to obtain a starting bid of $2,000. But only a few of the higher-quality, higher-value lots had any such lower limits, and absentee bidding seemed to take place on only every third lot or so.
Plans are in place for the next St. Louis auction on March 10; call Phillips-Selkirk at 314-726-5515 for more information. Note to auction newbies: The hammer price gets a 15 percent commission and 7 percent tax tacked on, so keep in mind that every dollar you bid costs you closer to a buck-and-a-quarter.