He was the last of the great Tory philanderers and bon viveurs, whose arrogance and wit scandalised and delighted in equal measure - and now Christie’s is auctioning the treasures of his cellar.
Conservative Member of Parliament, junior minister, historian, serial adulterer and exuberant diarist, Alan Clark died in 1999.
And when his widow Jane invited Christie’s to view the cellar of the ancestral home, Saltwood Castle in Kent, head of wine sales David Elswood was astonished by what he found.
‘The ordinary drinking wine was in the racks,’ he said. But, he went on, as they penetrated deeper into the ancient, damp catacombs beneath the castle, they found finer and finer bottles pushed behind cupboards and under piles of junk.
‘It seems he had hidden cases away so they wouldn’t get jumped on when his sons were teenagers,’ Elswood said. The cellars were so damp the wooden cases had rotted and labels had been lost.
But the wines – among them Chateau Palmer 1961 (including a case estimated at (£6,000-£8,000), Yquem 1967 and Lynch-Bages 1961 – are in good condition.
‘Alan Clark was a passionate man…and it is no surprise that his passion extended to the world of fine wines,’ Elswood said. ‘Numerous references to wine and the drinking thereof are to be found in his acclaimed diaries.’
Clark relished his notoriety – especially the outrage his sexual exploits caused. He boasted about bedding both the mother and two grown up daughters of the same family, and had a splendid disregard for anyone he considered beneath him.
One entry in his diary has him standing on his balcony at the Ministry of Defence, high above Whitehall, contemplating urinating on the crowds below.
He was once asked in a TV interview if he had any skeletons in his cupboard. ‘Dear boy, I can’t get the door closed,’ he replied.
Written by Adam Lechmere