Mystery owner auctions USD26m of wines

A wine collection of almost 17,000 bottles from a single cellar – including grand cru Burgundies and first-growth Bordeaux – is expected to bring as much as USD26 million at auction, Sotheby’s said.

The four-day sale that kicked off on Friday in Hong Kong features more than 275 lots of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti spanning more than five decades. Top Bordeaux including La Mission Haut-Brion 1945 and Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1961 are also on the block, according to the catalog.

Although Sotheby’s hasn’t disclosed the seller’s identity, there are hints in the catalog. The collector is described as a fifth-generation property developer, and the preponderance of Burgundies suggests a younger collector as older ones have favored Bordeaux, said Sarah Heller, a master of wine at Heller Beverage Consultancy.

“You just don’t see collections like these come along very often,” Heller said. “People will look at it as a barometer of interest, and the rarefied world of top Burgundy collectors will be watching with bated breath.”

Single-owner sales usually command a premium at auction because buyers can more easily check the wines’ provenance as well as storage and transport history when the seller’s identity is known.

There’s no mystery about the provenance of a special edition of five-bottle cases of Mouton Rothschild that go on sale today, the final day of the auctions. They’ve been stored at the Bordeaux chateau since bottling, and could earn prices 10 percent to 15 percent higher than wines not sold directly by the producer, said Ritchie.

Each of the 25 identical lots includes an invitation for two to attend a dinner held at the Palace of Versailles, where the famous 1945 vintage will be served. The estimate per case is $15,000 to $25,000.

“Not only do you get some of the finest bottles of Bordeaux wine, but also the chance to experience firsthand an evening of French culture and history at the palace,” said Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, chief executive officer of Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA.

Today’s sale will also include bottles of single-malt whiskey, as well as Kweichow Moutai, the Chinese sorghum-based liquor that has become sought-after by Asian collectors. The most expensive lot of the fiery drink is from the 1997 vintage, of which only 1,997 bottles were made to commemorate that year’s handover of Hong Kong to China. The 12 bottles and original cardboard carton have an estimate of $85,000 to $140,000. MDT/Bloomberg

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