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Wine tasting: only $16.5k a ticket

In what must be the last word in conspicuous consumption, 35 people have paid US$16,500 each to taste their way through wines with an average bottle price of US$2000.

The Top 100+ Wines of the Century was a three-day wine and food extravaganza organised last month by Manhattan-based Acker Merrall & Condit at Le Bernardin, Cru, and Bouley restaurants.

Guests were given ‘a splash’ each of verticals including Rousseau Chambertin from the1920s and Pétrus from the 50s, horizontals of 1959 First Growths and 1985 Jayer Burgundies, including Echézeaux, Vosne Romanée Cros Parantoux, and Richebourg, and Domaine de la Romanée Conti Romanée Conti from 1923, 1937 and 1945 – the latter worth some US$15,000 a bottle.

There was a taste-off of 1989 and 1990 Chateauneuf du Pape including Château Rayas, Domaine Marcoux Vieilles Vignes, Château de Beaucastel Hommage a Jacques Perrin, Bonneau Reserve des Celestins, and the ‘Killer Krugs’ of 1959 and 1961.

Brad Hickey, sommelier at Bouley, said although everyone only got ‘a splash’ of each wine, it added up to a lot of bottles.

Acker president John Kapon said around US$400,000 (£230,235) of wine was served. Two thirds of the guests, he added, had come to the 2004 Top Wines event, which took place over the course of four days and featured wines from different countries.

Despite the high pricetag, he said the event was sold out and he was already planning one for next year.

He also pointed out it was good value, as the average bottle cost was £2000, and guests had the opportunity to try 100 of them – including such fabulous rarities as the 1945 Romanée Conti, which is ‘US$15,000 (£8,633), and they only made 604 bottles in total.’

But he conceded, ‘Obviously, one has to have some significant disposable income to attend.’

Given the great age of some of the wines, several were off. Kapon said the guests understood this was inevitable.

One attendee, Dr Harry Snady, a gastroenterologist at Mt Sinai Hospital in New York City said, ‘I have believed for years that red wine has health benefits. And I think the better the wine, the better it is for you.’

Written by Maggie Rosen

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