Cover Simon Tam, founder of Aeos Auctions

Aeos Auctions, founded by the former head of wine in Asia at Christie’s, Simon Tam, aims to make buying wine at auction more accessible. Why not bid on a bottle—or 12—at the first live auction of 2022 later this month?

A lot featuring three magnums of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Romanée-Conti 2003 sold for HK$1,187,500 at Christie’s Hong Kong’s Autumn Wine Auctions in 2021. A case of Domaine Leroy Clos de Vougeot 2015 went for HK$812,500. These are prices far outside the budget of many a wine lover.

But now, you can bid on great quality wine with exceptional provenance at entry-level prices thanks to Christie’s former head of wine in Asia, Simon Tam, who has set up his own wine auction house, Aeos Auctions.

“I think there is a real need to make wine accessible via the buying method of an auction,” says Tam, “because it’s not just about high prices. The reason I founded Aeos was to make wine accessible and transparent. Wine auction has been an industry long shrouded in mystery, and there’s no need for that.”

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Aeos will offer wines at a range of price points, with a selection that can include anything from mature Bordeaux Classed Growths—some with decades of careful cellaring, to First Growths from various vintages, matured champagnes, celebrated names from Burgundy, and notable New World bottlings. Everything on offer is ready to drink, though there will also be once-in-a-lifetime selections suited to the cellar or a special occasion. Wines are sold solo—some large format others standard, with some by the case or, unlike at many other wine auctions, in mixed cases.

Making wine accessible is something Tam has always endeavoured to do. In 1994 he founded the Independent Wine Centre in Hong Kong, pioneering wine education in the SAR and expanding it to Shanghai and Macau, before being headhunted to lead China’s—and then Asia’s—wine business at Christie’s, where he worked for close to a decade.

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What Tam is doing now with Aeos is not completely removed from his previous auction house role. “My clients are wine lovers. They are really no different to those of Christie’s. They might choose different wines for different occasions, and we are perhaps looking at a younger demographic than Christie’s, but wine is a lifestyle choice. It’s enjoyable; there’s no pretence or snobbiness around it. It’s for people who want to get a bottle of wine and are not afraid to ask why it’s good and what’s the right price.”

And Tam’s offering is good. He’s dedicated to only selling wines he would want on his own table and he sources from private collectors and friends who are real connoisseurs: while they may have fine collections of rare wines that reach top prices, they have also picked distinctive, delicious and more modestly priced wines to include in their personal collections—and it is these that Tam will be bringing to market.

A selection of these wines will be available at seasonal live auctions, which are hosted by Tam, and for which bidding can take place in-room, over the telephone or via written absentee bids. These auctions offer the kind of wines you are unlikely to see again.

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Take the upcoming live auction on 22 January, which will be held at The Murray, where the stars of the show are perhaps the 13 bottles of Domaine René Engel, consigned by a single private owner. The revered Burgundy domaine is no longer in production, but the finite wines that remain in the market are highly sought after.

Aside from the René Engel lots, Simon’s picks for this sale include some rare vintages of mature New Zealand pinot noirs, available by the case, some mixed lots of Sauternes and a range of mature Bordeaux.

As well as the seasonal live auctions—Tam is aiming to host three per year—there will also be online auctions running weekly with further interesting wine selections.

According to Tam, the biggest differences between Aeos and other sites that offer auction-style bidding on wine, such as BidVino, is “the information, the details, the expertise, the curation of the lots and the quality of what we offer,” he says. “I believe we cannot be compared with anybody.”

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Aeos doesn’t only promise auctions featuring fabulous wines for every oenophile, but also community gatherings to share knowledge, with workshops covering topics such as how to bid at auction or how to check bottles, as well as tasting events and wine dinners. The latter will likely centre on Asian food and wine pairing, an area of expertise for Tam, who once wrote a newspaper column on the subject and created an app called Flavour Colours to help consumers pair their food and wine according to categorisation by colour.

For now, the auctions lead the way for Aeos. And to make the experience less intimidating for first-time buyers or younger oenophiles, Tam is happy to share his top tips for success at auction—and that doesn’t always mean winning.

Simon Tam’s Tips for Buying Wine at Auction

  • Have discipline: decide on your price ceiling prior to bidding and stick to it, bearing in mind the buyer’s premium, which at Aeos is an additional 22.5% on top of the hammer price. Understand the bidding increments and flash your paddle two steps before the price reaches your limit. Be aware that the auctioneer may try to tease another bid or two out of you—and they can be persuasive.
  • Do your homework: know where your wine is coming from, and understand its market price and availability—winesearcher.com is a good resource.
  • Make the auction house’s wine team your best friend: considering the premium payed by winning bidders, buyers have every right to ask for condition reports, photographs, information on provenance and, if available, original receipts.
  • Don’t bid under the influence: wine lovers enjoy a glass or two, but when combined with a live auction the combination can see discipline go out of the window. Remember that wine never tastes as good when you’ve overpaid for it.

Aeos Auctions first live auction of 2022 will take place on 22 January at Niccolo Room (25/F), The Murray, 22 Cotton Tree Drive, Central. Bids can be made in person, over the telephone or in writing via an absentee bidding form. To bid on wines in Aeos’ weekly online auctions, visit live.aeosauctions.com

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