Vintage Bottles Of Maotai Selling For Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dollars At Auction
With prices for Moutai (茅台), China’s most popular brand of premium baijiu (distilled sorghum spirits), spiking in recent months amid soaring demand and ostensibly dwindling supply, and rampant counterfeiting causing the company to release special imprints with extreme security features, the country’s fever for high-end Chinese “white lightning” is now starting to light up the auction market. Much as Chinese collectors have caused prices for favored wine vintages like Chateau Lafite ‘82 to skyrocket at auction in Hong Kong to “insane” levels, well-heeled Moutai lovers are bidding hundreds of thousands of dollars for rare vintage bottles, prices that only a few years ago would have seemed outlandish. In response to the swelling demand for 1950s and ’60s Moutai, domestic Chinese auction houses are now scouring the country, “Antiques Roadshow“-style, searching for old bottles.
Despite the far lower demand for baijiu outside of China — bottles of Moutai can be procured in New York’s Chinatown for around half of what they’d cost in China — in China rare or expensive bottles carry a prestige that’s hard to overstate. A recent article in the New York Times about the spiraling price and demand for Moutai in China neatly sums up the motivation that many in China have for sometimes spending the equivalent of the average Chinese laborer’s annual wage on a single bottle of spirits:
by aniie + Arthur