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Department of Wealth: The $200 Sip

2 minute read
David Bjerklie

When could you ever imagine decanting a $12,000 bottle of 188-year-old Chateau d’Yquem? What night could possibly be special enough to justify that kind of $2,000-a-glass indulgence? Well, the wine gurus at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, auction houses to the kind of people who can afford $200 sips, think New Year’s Eve 1999 is probably about as likely an occasion as will ever come along. So this week they’re uncorking two of the biggest wine auctions in history. The headline grabber is the Sotheby’s auction, which features more than $10 million worth of wine, all from the cellar of a single European collector. “We can’t reveal his identity,” says Sotheby’s Michael Davis. “Let’s just say he’s a great connoisseur of wine, life and art.”

If the wine collection is any indication, one can only wonder what must be in this euro-aesthete’s art collection. Among the bottles up for bid this week are great trophy wines such as an 1811 Chateau Lafite and a 1945 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, as well as some of the finest and rarest young wines–bottles that an investor can bet will collect a premium at the year 3000 auctions. Just paging through the Sotheby’s catalog (it’s available online at www.sothebys.com is enough to moisten oenophilic palates. One evident specialty of the collector was assembling “vertical” collections of a single vineyard over many years. Sotheby’s estimates that a rare collection of Australian Penfolds Grange from 1951 to 1992 will sell for more than $30,000.

Who will pay such prices? Some Wall Street millionaires, among others. But the bidders will also include a handful of billionaires from Silicon Valley, where wine collecting has become a passion. One night in New York City recently, two NASDAQ princes sitting at adjacent dinner tables ran up four-figure wine tabs. Both said they were just warming up.

–By David Bjerklie

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