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Jamie Ritchie appointed worldwide head of wine at Sotheby's

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The new and younger tribe of wine lovers has found an appetite for buying wine at auction, according to Sotheby’s new worldwide head of wine, Jamie Ritchie.

The Englishman has just been appointed to the prestigious position vacated by grande dame Serena Sutcliffe MW who stepped aside last summer. He began his career at the auction house in 1990 and has been an auctioneer at some of Sotheby’s most impressive wine sales, including the record-breaking auction of wine from the collection of Andrew Lloyd Webber in 1997 as well as the more recent blockbuster sale of wines from William Koch’s cellar.

Speaking from New York where he is based, Ritchie said he believes wine now appeals to a new and younger demographic.

“We’ve seen a change in our business. Two decades ago the average age of buyers here was 60-65 years old. Now it’s more like 45-50 years old. A lot of wealth is being created – in the financial markets and the tech industry - by a younger generation of people. And, when it comes to lifestyle, wine is still relatively cheap. You can enjoy a good bottle of wine, share it with friends, and even though the price of wine has increased it’s not the same investment as an apartment or a painting, it’s still a relatively affordable part of one’s lifestyle.”

 

Ritchie brings a wealth of expertise to his new role. He set up Sotheby’s wine auctions in New York (in 1994), Germany and Hong Kong and has also been senior vice president of Sotheby’s internet division. More recently his title was CEO and president of Sotheby’s wine Americas and Asia and says that while the Asian market remains important, it has recently scaled back.

“Last year worldwide 52 per cent of the value of wines sold were to buyers in Asia and that’s down from 78 per cent at the height of the market. We’ve seen the North American and also the Latin American market strengthen.”

Ritchie first became interested in wine as an 18 year old, when he unusually (for a teenager) began buying cases rather than bottles of inexpensive wines: “I realised that if I lived until I was 70 and drank a bottle every day I would drink over 20,000 bottles of wine and that would be 20,000 enjoyable experiences.”

He says he now sees a movement in buyers towards exactly this type of pleasurable experience. “Things are moving away from people buying wines to lay down and towards buying wines that are mature and ready to drink today.”

Looking ahead, his aim is for Sotheby’s to continue to “grow and support what we’ve specialised in, which is single owner sales and offering wines direct from wineries.”

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