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‘Unique’ auction lots set Naples Winter Wine Festival record

Experiences including dinner at Château d’Yquem and a winery-hosted yacht cruise around Croatian islands have helped raise more than $33m in this year's live charity auction, as wealthy bidders pounced on a series of one-off lots.

Bidders were out in force at the 2024 Naples Winter Wine Festival last weekend in Florida, which culminated in the traditional live auction and raised a record total of more than $33m (£26m), organisers said.

Held annually by the Naples Children & Education Foundation, the live charity auction features bespoke, once-in-a-lifetime experiences encompassing food, wine and travel.

This year’s sale listed 50 lots, many including experiences linked to some of the world’s most sought-after wines. 

Naples winter wine festival 2024

Naples Winter Wine Festival chairs Ralph and Shelly Stayer with a restored Ford Bronco. Credit: Naples Winter Wine Festival.

One lot, nicknamed ‘Rarest of the Rare’, sold for $650,000 and included a six-night, business class trip for two couples to France – taking in a private tour of the Palace of Versailles just outside of Paris before moving on to Reims and a private cellar and vineyard tour of Rare Champagne, hosted by chef de cave Émilien Boutillat. 

Each couple will receive a pair of magnums from the 2014 and 2008 vintages – the latter regarded as one of Champagne’s all-time greats – and there will be a dinner featuring older vintages at Résidence Eisenhower in Reims.

Another wine and travel-theme lot was entitled ‘Cruising the Islands of Croatia’. It sold for $800,000 and offered four couples an eight-night tour of Croatia alongside the proprietors of Sonoma County’s Knights Bridge Winery, Kelley and Jim Bailey.  This includes seven nights aboard a 122-foot yacht named Navilux, which will visit several islands, such as Brač, Hvar, Korčula, Mljet and Šipan. 

A broader list of lots and prices was published by local media outlet Naples Daily News. 

Its list included a lot focused around Château d’Yquem and named ‘How Sweet It Is’, which sold for $380,000. 

This lot entitled three couples to a night at Hotel Cheval Blanc in Paris, with dinner at three-Michelin-starred Plénitude, before moving on to spend two nights at vaunted Sauternes estate Château d’Yquem south of Bordeaux, according to the Naples Winter Wine Festival website. 

Guests will receive dinner at d’Yquem, plus a private tour and tasting with estate CEO Pierre Lurton, as well as large-format bottles from a range of vintages, including 2009, 2013, 2017 and 2010.   

Naples Winter Wine Festival 2024

Naples Winter Wine Festival 2024 auctioneer Humphrey Butler. Credit: Naples Winter Wine Festival.

Forty couples also contributed $25,000 each for an exclusive dinner at D’Amico’s The Continental in Naples, with wines to be poured by former ‘Honored Vintners’ at Naples Winter Wine Festivals down the years.  

Burgundy and Oregon winemaker Véronique Boss-Drouhin, of Maison Joseph Drouhin and Domaine Drouhin Oregon, was the Honored Vintner at Naples Winter Wine Festival 2024. 

On the culinary side, four-time nominated and two-time James Beard Award-winning chef Paul Bartolotta was named as the event’s 2024 Chef de Cuisine.

On the eve of the live auction, 18 celebrity chefs, more than 20 top winemakers and 18 elite sommeliers split into smaller groups to prepare exquisite, intimate dinners at the private homes of Festival Trustees and other exclusive locations across Naples.

Proceeds from the auction will go to almost 90 non-profit organisations working to provide support to at-risk and underprivileged children in the area, said organisers. 

An online auction was due to end on Tuesday (30 January), but the weekend’s live event means The Naples Winter Wine Festival has already raised nearly $302m since its inception in 2001.


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