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Exploring Sotheby's New Chapter with Nick Pegna

Nick Pegna shares his vision, strategies, and insights in the wine and spirits industry as he takes over as the Global Head of Wines and spirits at Sotheby's.

In the fast-paced world of fine wines and spirits, where tradition meets innovation, Sotheby's has announced its new leader, Nick Pegna. With over three decades of diverse experience in the industry, Nick Pegna assumed the role of Global Head of Wine and spirits at Sotheby's in August 2023. Known for his hands-on approach and international expertise, Pegna has navigated the intricate landscapes of retail, wholesale, private clients, corporate, and auction environments. Let’s discover Nick's journey, his plans for Sotheby's, and his unique insights into the evolving dynamics of the global wine and spirits market.

Nick, Congratulations on taking on the role at Sotheby’s as the Global Head of Wine and spirits at Sotheby's! What a great opportunity for them to have the wealth of your experience and a platform for you to showcase it and take Sotheby’s to new heights.

As Sotheby's newly appointed Global Head of Wine and Spirits, what strategic shifts or initiatives do you envision implementing to further enhance the esteemed legacy of this iconic auction house in the world of fine wines?

I feel it is very important for Sotheby’s to be a trusted bridge to the greatest wines and spirits in the world and to do so, I intend that we work even closer with key producers to strengthen this process.  We have a wealth of committed clients, with a keen interest in collecting and drinking and they expect us to continue to impress them with the range and diversity of our offering.

Image: Nick Pegna, Sotheby's Global Head of Wine & Spirits, at the 2 Michelin Star restaurant Arbon in Hong Kong.

Your tenure at Berry Bros & Rudd and your role in setting up and running businesses in Asia highlight your multifaceted skills in an international environment. How do you plan to leverage this wealth of experience in your current position at Sotheby's?

We are constantly looking to open new markets and expand into exciting existing markets.  We have recently opened a retail presence in Zurich Switzerland, alongside other luxury goods, within the Bucherer store and have also held our first auctions in China and Singapore in 2023.

Your extensive experience in Asia positions you uniquely to understand the nuances of the market. What opportunities and challenges do you foresee in the wine and spirits market in Asia, and how do you plan to navigate them?

Asia is a market in constant flux, and it is exciting as new opportunities emerge all the time.  Our recent opening of our Sotheby’s office in Seoul might well be important for Wines & Spirits in the future.  The current state of the Chinese market is certainly having an impact on East Asia, however, I am confident that 2024 will show green shoots of growth again there.

Image: Nick Pegna, Sotheby's Global Head of Wine &  Spirits With George Lacey, Head of Sotheby's Wine, Asia.

As you step into the role of Global Head of Wine and Spirits at Sotheby's, how do you intend to balance the diverse markets of Asia, North America, and Europe, ensuring a strategic approach to each region?

There is a marked diversity of tastes and collecting habits between these differing markets and that creates an arbitrage opportunity, for us to bring benefit to collectors due to our global reach.  We will ensure that we do not create overlaps in our busy auction calendar, to ensure each region’s sales receive suitable focus and attention.

Image: Sotheby's Wine team with Ludivine Griveau at the 163rd Hospices de Beaune wine auction.

With the global fine wine market experiencing fluctuations, what opportunities do you see arising from the current market conditions, and how do you plan to adapt to ensure Sotheby's remains a key player in the industry?

As an auction house, we do not hold stock so we can take a position, regardless of the market pricing.  Lower prices represent excellent value for collectors, and strengthening prices encourage buyers and sellers.

The wine and spirits market is undergoing a transformative shift, particularly with a focus on cross-selling luxury commodities. How do you plan to capitalize on potential crossovers between art, furniture, and fine wines at Sotheby's?

This is a work in progress.  It starts internally, with us making sure our colleagues, who own these vital relationships, understand what makes us the largest wine & spirit auction house in the world and why.  Frequent client engagement is also the key.

Image: Nick Pegna, Sotheby's Global Head of Wine & Spirits, taking a winning bid during the 163rd Hospices de Beaune wine auction, 19 November 2023.

You mentioned your fondness for Grand Cru Chablis. Could you share your insights into this region? Do you plan to incorporate it into collections at Sotheby’s?

I am a lover of white Burgundy as a whole, and I have found that great Chablis has helped fill the gap created by the shortage of other white Burgundy.  In our retail ranges in New York and Hong Kong, we are constantly on the lookout for new exciting producers.

The recent report on declining wine sales at auction houses indicates a challenging market. How do you plan to navigate these market conditions, and what role do long-term relationships and client education play in overcoming these challenges?

I have not witnessed that here at Sotheby’s.  Our best estimates look to make 2023 our second-best year on record in Wines and Spirits, driven by unique collections and sensible pricing.  These factors will continue to be critical for our long-term success.

What is an underrated region or AVA and a spirit that you think collectors may be focusing on in the coming years?

My New York colleagues in Spirits are extremely excited by the American Whiskeys they are bringing to the sales room and I can understand why.

Image: Nick Pegna, Sotheby's Global Head of Wine & Spirits, at the 2 Michelin Star restaurant Arbor in Hong Kong, ahead of the sale of the first tranche of wines from the collection of Pierre Chen.

What can we find you pouring on a Friday evening? What music would you be listening to?

This Friday happens to be a night when all the family are reunited, and I think we shall be drinking the lovely Clos St Urbain, Grand Cru Riesling from Zind Humbrecht 2009.  For music, it is likely to be Coldplay, for all the family to sing along to.

Nick Pegna's appointment as the Global Head of Wine and Spirits at Sotheby's marks a significant chapter in the legacy of this renowned auction house. His unique blend of experience, vision, and passion for the industry positions him to steer Sotheby's through the evolving landscapes of the global wine and spirits market. As we embark on this journey with Nick, we look forward to witnessing the unfolding of a new era at Sotheby's under his insightful leadership.

In conversation with Malvika Patel, Editor and VP, Beverage Trade Network

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