Maotai auction reaps RMB 5.22 million
Maotai (茅台), one of the best-known brands of baijiu (the classic Chinese alcohol made from distilled sorghum that averages an alcohol content from of 53 percent), might be in the mood to ganbei a shot or two as 100 bottles were sold for a total of RMB 5.22 million (US$791,000) at a liquor auction held in Shanghai on Sunday.
The bottles, not quite the stuff you buy at your local convenience store, were brewed mainly in the 1970s and 1980s and have been collected by individuals in Shanghai, according to a Xinhua report.
The most expensive bottle was one from Five Star Maotai made in 1955, which went for RMB 1.26 million.
Maotai, brewed in southwest Guizhou Province, has been considered one of China's leading baijiu brands and a symbol of status for decades -- regularly served at state dinners and official government functions.
The auction house that sold the bottles, the Shanghai International Commodity Auction, had a small stroke of luck in finding the Maotai bottles when almost 600 older Shanghai residents over two weeks walked into the company's offices with the bottles they have been saving for decades, hoping to capitalize on the recent trend on Maotai speculation.
"I watched the news last night, which indicated that aged Moutai sells for more than RMB 10,000 provided that it has been kept well," said 71-year-old retired worker, Jiang Changrong, to China Daily. "That's why I'm here to try my luck."
Prices for good vintage bottles of baijiu and Maotai have been skyrocketing of late, making the bottles the hottest things on Chinese action blocks in China after art and wine.
A bottle of Maotai produced in 1958 was sold for more than RMB 1.46 million at an auction in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, last September.
“Maotai has become China’s Louis Vuitton,” said Liu Yuan, general secretary of the National Association for Liquor and Spirits Circulation, a trade group to the New York Times in a recent article.
“Given the limited output and steep price, it’s a good way for officials to curry favor and for the rich to show off their wealth,” he continued.
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But, in an interview with Xinhua, Xuan Jiaxin, deputy director of the Shanghai Association of Collectors, warned investors of the considerable risks in the market amid Maotai's soaring popularity and auction prices.
Xuan said signs of speculation are “becoming evident and private collectors should be more cautious about entering the market.”
Due to soaring demand and dwindling supply, JingDaily reports that rampant counterfeiting of the classic Maotai bottles is starting, causing the company to release special imprints with extreme security features to help ensure customers are getting the real Maotai they are buying or bidding for.