Built by a notorious pirate, Nassau’s Graycliff hotel is an 18th-century treasure trove containing some of the oldest and rarest wines in existence…
This article has been created by Decanter in partnership with Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board.
Over 275,000 wines
Current value 25 million US dollars
Home to ‘oldest drinkable wine in the world’
In the Graycliff hotel’s long and colourful history, the cellar was originally built as a jail during the American Civil War era.
The prison bars remain in place today, securing a vast wine collection, spanning 500 producers and 18 countries – the life’s work of current owner, the Italian-born hotelier, Enrico Garzaroli.
Garzaroli began collecting wine in Lake Como and when he bought Graycliff mansion in 1973 – the same year The Bahamas gained independence from Britain – he brought 20,000 bottles with him.
At 70 years old, he has amassed a wine library that is said to be the third largest on the planet.
‘In terms of collecting old wine and liquors, I don’t think there is anyone in the world that can come close to me,’ Garzaroli told Decanter.com.
The stars of the cellar include a priceless bottle of 1727 Rudesheimer Apostelwein from Rheingau’s legendary Bremen Ratskeller.
‘This can justifiably claim to be the oldest drinkable wine in the world,’ said former Decanter columnist Michael Broadbent MW, who visited Graycliff on behalf of Christie’s auction house.
‘I have the very first vintage of Dom Pérignon rosé from 1959, a special edition to commemorate the wedding of the Shah of Iran that same year,’ said Garzaroli.
‘Although I am not sure where that is,’ he chuckled. ‘We joke that maybe one day we’ll accidentally kick a bottle lying around in the cellar and it’ll be that one.’
120-page wine list
As you might imagine, the wine list at Graycliff’s gourmet restaurant is formidable, covering 120 pages with bottle sizes extending up to 20-litre solomons.
There are three sommeliers on hand to act as guides, or guests can hand select their own bottles from the shelves. If you’re willing to pay a fee of $1,000 you can even dine in the cellar amongst the wines.
Five of the most expensive wines on the list*:
- Domaine Romanée-Conti, Romanée Conti 1952 – US$40,690
- Château Margaux 1893 – US$38,510
- Château Latour 1904 – US$35,550
- Cristal Millennium Cuvée 1990 (methuselah) – US$34,000
- Château Lafite Rothschild 1947 (magnum) – US$30,240
In addition, Graycliff’s Cognateque holds 9,000 Cognacs, Ports and Armagnac, with collector’s gems like the rare A.E Dor’s 1893 No.1 Cognac, Art Deco bottles of Courvoisier designed by the artist Erte and the and the Legacy Louis XIII Magnum..
It’s easy to see how Graycliff’s cellar has reached its staggering current value of US$25 million.
Famed for its dazzling white sands and ritzy casinos, Nassau attracts an elite crowd. Graycliff’s past guests are reported to include Nelson Mandela, Billy Joel, Jay-Z, Michael Jordan, Beyoncé and Lenny Kravitz – to name a few.
‘P!nk came a few years ago, this was when she was starting up her own wine project,’ recalled Garzaroli, referring to the American singer-songwriter.
‘I remember she ordered a bottle of Latour 1900 and Lafite 1928.’
Gazaroli claims his wine collection even proved to be a useful tool in international diplomacy:
‘Once I had the Prime Minister of Australia and the Prime Minister of The Bahamas here for lunch, they sat with nothing to say to each other, like zombies.
‘So I opened a bottle of Penfolds Grange for them, after that they were talking and talking, it was an ice-breaker.’