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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Singapore doctor's wine collection nets $4.9m at HK auction

A leading Singapore wine lover's collection has fetched far higher than expected prices when he auctioned off a part of it.
The Straits Times - September 17, 2013
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Singapore doctor's wine collection nets $4.9m at HK auction

A leading Singapore wine lover's collection has fetched far higher than expected prices when he auctioned off a part of it.

The rare wine sale at auction house Christie's Hong Kong last month netted HK$29.8 million (S$4.9 million), much more than Christie's estimate of HK$21 million.

Auctions of single-owner wine collections are rare. That single owner, leading kidney specialist Gordon Ku, said he had been collecting wines for more than 40 years.

In an interview with Christie's on its website, Mr Ku said that he was introduced to wine in his late teens "when (his) elder brother, who was studying in Britain, introduced wine to the family".

He describes the collection he sold as his "apothecary collection".

"The fact that I am a doctor is coincidental, but wine does have some medicinal value, as known from even mediaeval days."

Dr Ku runs the Ku Kidney & Medical Centre and is also chairman of local medical technology firm Awak Technologies, which is developing a wearable artificial kidney.

He is married, with two children. Originally from Hong Kong, he moved to Singapore in 1973.

Out of 726 lots auctioned, 695 were sold and about 15,000 bottles remain in his collection, most of which he keeps in three cellars at home.

More wine is kept in commercial cellars in Singapore, Britain and Beaune, France.

Dr Ku's strategy to buying wines is to buy more good vintage wines and fewer off-vintage ones, which are also good "because the wine is earlier-drinking and the price is more reasonable".

The top 10 lots of Dr Ku's collection were sold within and above their estimated ranges.

These include one lot of 10 bottles of acclaimed French vintner Henri Jayer's Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru 2001 Cros-Parantoux, which went at HK$427,000, much higher than the estimated range of HK$260,000 to HK$380,000.

Head of wine of Christie's China, Mr Simon Tam, who conducted part of the auction, said that "many of the maturing wines on offer in this sale are approaching their delicious drinking windows" and deemed it "a collection for enjoyment".

This is the second time that Christie's Hong Kong has held a single-owner wine auction for an Asian consignor, said Mr Tam.

He added: "Single-owner collections are uncommon to come by in the wine auction market... as most collectors prefer to keep their profiles private."

Proceeds from the auction lot of Jeroboam of Chateau Latour Vintage 1961, which went under the hammer for HK$146,400, will be donated to the Kidney Dialysis Foundation, which Dr Ku founded in 1996.

There were buyers from 14 countries across Asia, the Americas and Europe.

Mr Tam said: "The number of wine bidders from China in Christie's Hong Kong from 2008 to 2012 grew by 1,550 per cent.

"Chinese wine collectors are sophisticated and discriminating when it comes to building their collections."

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