In recent years, baijiu has been enjoying an increasing presence at major auction houses. Bottles of Kweichow Moutai, in particular, are regularly selling for substantial sums (with Sotheby’s in London a prominent recent example). Christie’s of Shanghai hosted another major auction in January 2022, with an authentic 1959 bottle of Moutai the star attraction of a 71-lot auction that comprised 613 bottles in total.
Dubbed “Enticing Flavours – Kweichow Moutai Online”, the auction involved selling off the prized collection of a single individual. The exhibition allowed interested parties to place bids on individual bottles from a wide array of eras. The 1959 was the oldest bottle in the batch, estimated to raise up to CNY 1,600,000 (around £185,500). Other lots included Moutai from the 1970s, 80s, 90s and 2000s.
The 1959 vintage, dubbed the Wu Xing Moutai, is a white whale for many baijiu enthusiasts – hence the excitement. Other popular varieties were the Great Master Chang Dai-Chien Commemoration Moutai of 2012, which boasted a unique bottle design, and many other famed and celebrated years. The auction ran from January 4th to 18th and eventually closed at a value of CNY 9,525,600 (£1,103,923). Not bad for a day’s trading.
It was the presence of the 1959 bottle that caught the imagination of auctioneers and bidders alike. This Moutai is famously rare – and, like many collectable spirits in China – prone to counterfeiting from enterprising criminal minds. When a 1959 Moutai is sourced, it usually shows signs of wear and tear as well as loss of contents – both of which are to be expected through age. This made the superior presentation of the bottle auctioned at Christie’s particularly prominent. It had lost just 10% of its volume, while the outer packing and bottle were in immaculate condition.
As expected, it was this 1959 bottle that raised the most in a single auction, though it did fall slightly short of what the auctioneers had hoped. The bidding on the bottle closed at CNY 960,000, which is equivalent to around £111,250. That’s still not to be sneezed at, but significantly lower than the anticipated maximum value.
Overall, though, the results were positive. The two lowest selling lots were for six bottles of Fei Tian Moutai from 2004 and six bottles of Brilliant Achievement Moutai from 2018. Both sold for CNY 54,000 each, which was slightly higher than estimated. Several other lots also improved upon their estimated values. As with all auctions, it was a case of swings and roundabouts.
This may not have been the most eye-catching of auctions involving baijiu, though perhaps the timing could have played a role in this. Early January could be argued as a strange time to attempt a high-baijiu spirit trade. All the same, the owner of the collection was likely happy enough to walk away with a cool million in his back pocket. No doubt Kweichow Moutai would also have liked to have seen some of that money, but as they already boast the title of the biggest public company in China, they’re not hurting for income.
Watch this space for future news on baijiu auctions and sales, though, especially if you’re interested in this spirit as an investment opportunity. It’s likely that baijiu-centric auctions – especially those involving rare bottles of Moutai – will continue to grow in prominence.
Moutai Scientific Analysis – VS – V.I.P Jiu 8 Scientific Analysis
A bottle of V.I.P Jiu 8 together with a bottle of Kweichow Moutai Flying Fairy was sent to a UK laboratory for analysis.
The laboratory is a registered member of UKAS – The United Kingdom Accreditation Service that is recognised by the UK government when comparing products to internationally agreed standards.
The two bottles were labelled sample A and sample B.
- Sample A – V.I.P Jiu 8.
- Sample B – Kweichow Moutai Flying Fairy.
The laboratory concluded that the two bottles were very different, with sample A (VIP Jiu 8) being considerably more complex than sample B (Kweichow Moutai Flying Fairy).
The chart below clearly shows that sample A (VIP Jiu 8) contains many more compounds with positive attributes than sample B (Kweichow Moutai Flying Fairy).