Prospective buyers nearly trampled each other at an extraordinary auction of wine and spirits from the cellars of Paris’s town hall.
Bringing in about €970,000 (£650,000) – nearly double the estimate – the 20 and 21 October sale consisted of Chateaux Cheval Blanc, Haut Brion, Lafite Rothschild, Margaux, Mouton Rothschild, Petrus, Domaine de la Romanee Conti, Krug – both great and lesser vintages – as well as many random bottles.
Valuer Claude Marathier said he was ‘astonished’ by the results. ‘It’s unprecedented for people to spend this kind of money on wine they can get for less elsewhere. But they were happy to pay a premium for the history and the excellent condition.’
One buyer, Stephen Williams of London’s Antique Wine Company, bid fiercely against a Chinese consortium and in the end paid €10,000 for two bottles of 1986 Domaine de la Romanee Conti, three cases worth of 1996 Lafite Rothschild at over €700 a bottle, and several other first growths in good years.
The collection is dubbed ‘Chirac’s cellar’ as the former president was responsible for most of the stock during his lavish two-decade reign as mayor of Paris. It is alleged he and his wife spent equivalent of €2.13m on food and wine between 1987 and 1995.
‘Every single lot sold,’ said Rene Saragosti, chief administrator for auctions, who confirmed that this was the highest grossing wine sale his office had ever hosted.
Very little logic came into purchase decisions, with bottles of identical wine varying wildly in price. Three bottles of 1989 Mouton Rothschild went for €2600 – while another buyer got a relative bargain – six bottles of the same for €3100. Other top sellers included 10 lots of one bottle each of 1989 Chateau Petrus which sold for between €3200–4000 apiece.
Williams said, ‘It might seem as if we paid ahead of the market for some of the wine – like the Petrus – but if you take Petrus 1990, for example, we were selling this for about £11,000 a case a year ago, and now it sells for £20,000 – and I don’t see this rise in prices abating any time soon.’
Written by Maggie Rosen