Sotheby’s Banks On Its Own Wine Brand
A new way to impress your oenophile friends? Tell them you picked up a bottle at Sotheby’s.
The auction house, known for selling some of the world’s most recognizable art, fantastic jewels, and hard-to-find bottles of wine is going from retailer to creator. And you, too, can get in on the action. In late October, the company launched its wine label, Sotheby’s Own, which includes 12 bottlings from regions worldwide, such as Champagne and Haut-Médoc in France as well as Sonoma, Calif.
“The Sotheby’s Own Label Collection of wines has been one of the most exciting projects that we have worked on,” says Jamie Ritchie, chairman of Sotheby’s Wine. “Selecting wine can be intimidating for many people, and so we have launched a range of Sotheby’s branded wines that will assure the consumer that they are getting the best value from classic regions at affordable prices.”
The auction house is no stranger to discerning buyers, whether they’re looking at historic artwork or a 17,000-bottle cellar (that sold for nearly $30 million). But they also know the everyday wine consumer who is buying bottles around $15. The company’s headquarters in New York City features a brick-and-mortar wine shop, filled with wines from heralded brands, small producers, and emerging regions. Its vast portfolio of auctioned wines from around the world inspired the brand to showcase some of the top areas with wines of its own. These wines are traditional representations of the styles and history of wine in those appellations, and a fantastic introduction for consumers who may or may not be familiar with the beverages.
What resulted is the Sotheby’s Own Label Collection, a range of a dozen wines: six red, three white, one rosé, and two sparkling wines. For now, the focus is on Europe and the United States. The reds consist of the following: a 2016 Bourgogne Rouge, 2017 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 2017 Langhe Nebbiolo, 2017 St.-Émilion, 2017 Pessac-Léognan, and 2010 Haut-Médoc. The latter is one of the better vintages for the region in recent years and at $24.95 a great value for an almost decade-old wine.
As for the whites and the rosé, the collection includes a classic Sancerre from 2018, 2016 Bourgogne Blanc, 2018 Sonoma County Chardonnay, and 2018 Sancerre Rouge. Also in the mix are two bubbly selections: an NV Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Champagne and a 2018 Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore.
The regions reflect the appellations and styles that have sold best in the shop and on the e-commerce site and correspond to some of the beloved producers that the team has known for years. To create the project, which took two years, Sotheby’s partnered with producers with whom they have great relationships. For example, the Sotheby’s Own Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are crafted by Matt and Sara Licklider in Sonoma County. The pair make wines from the same grapes under their popular label, LIOCO. “[These wines] both exemplify the style that we admire from California,” Ritchie says. “They embrace the climate but retain the acidity and freshness, so they are also balanced and harmonious.”
The Champagne production is overseen by sixth-generation owner and winemaker Julien Barbier of the Legras family. He makes the sparkler from 100% grand cru Chardonnay from vineyards in Chouilly, while the Langhe Nebbiolo comes from the famed Scavino family, based in Barolo. Enrico Scavino’s daughter Elisa makes this classic representation of Nebbiolo, the grape in Barolo, for Sotheby’s Own. Both of the Burgundies feature premier cru grapes—Chardonnay from the Frionnes vineyard in St.-Aubin and Pinot Noir from Beaurepaire vineyard in Santenay—as well as the winemaking of Jean-Baptiste Clair. Like the others, his family has been making wine in the respective region for generations.
The wine label is a natural extension of what Sotheby’s does best, explains Ritchie, which is to use the auction house’s reputation and relationships to showcase outstanding wines while ensuring consumers feel confident in their purchasing decisions. But the collection now gives these winemakers the potential to reach a wider audience, especially given the price points. The wines are bookended with the bubbles, spanning from $16.95 for the Prosecco Superiore to $39.95 for the NV Blanc de Blancs Champagne. That, Ritchie says, is one of the motivations for developing the wine label, which he plans to extend to additional countries and appellations. “We have been looking at various ways in which we can expand our retail offering,” he says. “They complement the rest of our range and will appeal to an audience who trusts our selection through the Sotheby’s brand.”
And while these wines may not be hitting the auction block for five or six figures, they do still nod to their heritage—each wine label features a lot number specific to the producer, with a story behind the importance of the number, as well as a label design reflecting each brand, right down to the font and iconography. It’s all a good cocktail party conversation starter. And the best part? There’s no gavel required—just click “add to cart.”
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