Wine, the elixir of the Gods, ranging from the palest yellow to the deepest burgundy, attracts oenophiles like bees to honey, who covet the bottles. However, when the cellars are too full, or the timing is especially fruitful, the bottles are put on the auction block. Such was the case of the Superlative Modern Cellar auction at Christie's in New York.
The evening began with a pre-sale tasting where guests could experience Château Lafite-Rothschild 1982, Château Lafite-Rothschild 1997, Château Latour 1993, Château Mouton-Rothschild 1995, Château Mouton-Rothschild 1996, Château Mouton-Rothschild 1997, Château Margaux, Château Haut-Brion 1995, Château Haut-Brion 1996, Château Pétrus 1979, and Château Pétrus 1983, which afforded them a very unique opportunity to sample vintages of the same house as well as compare the flights of the same year. We certainly enjoyed learning the nuances of each of these spectacular wines.
On March 14, 2008, excitement ran high as Auctioneer Richard Brierley opened the Evening Sale: Highlights from a Superlative Modern Collection, where bidders vied for the opportunity to own exceptional wines from the past 25 years and take a "tour" of France's best houses with offerings of Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Latour, Château Mouton-Rothschild, Château Margaux, Château Haut-Brion, Château La Mission-Haut-Brion, and Caymus. Champagne, glorious champagne, had offerings of Cristal Louis Roederer and Dom Perignon. Sauternes from Château d'Yquem, Saint Emillion from Château Cheval-Blanc, Pomerols from Le Pin and the name that brings collectors to their knees - Château Pétrus, and from Napa Valley, California, offerings included Dominus and Opus One.
If you have never been to a wine auction, let us set the stage so to speak, for you. First of all, the bottles have been carefully reviewed, photographed, and recorded in a catalog to provide a complete description of the wine and the condition of the bottle and the case. Since bidders do not actually see the bottles, but rather only see a photograph on the screen, it is important to have this information.
Although you may attend the auction, you may also call in your bid to the live auction, or even bid directly from your computer. Once a bid is placed, the amount is displayed on a board in US Dollars (USD), Pound Sterling (GBP), Euros (EUR), Japanese Yen (JPY), Swiss Francs (CHF), and Hong Kong Dollars (HKD). The board reflects each subsequent bid with the numbers changing so fast as times, that they are mere blurs on the board as the bidders set the pace of the auction.
A few of the highlights of the evening began with Lot 1: Château Lafite-Rothschild Vintage 1982, Pauillac, 1er cru classé, 1 impériale, which sold for $36,000 within the respectable estimate of $28,000 - $40,000. Lot 2: a dozen bottles of the same vintage sold for $33,600 (est. $24,000 - $35,000). Lot 5: Château Lafite-Rothschild Vintage 1986, Pauillac, 1er cru classé, 1 jerobaum exceeded its estimate of $6,000 - $9,000 with its sale price of $9,840.
Bidding was fast and furious as Napa wine enthusiasts seized the opportunity to own Lot 120: Dominus Vintage 1994 signed by Christian Moueix, 1 jeroboam in original wooden case, $4,200 (est. $2,400 - $3,500); Lot 121: Dominus Vintage 1995, 1 impériale in original wooden case, $3,120 (est. $1,600 - $2,400); Lot 122: Dominus Vintage 1996, 1 impériale in original wooden case, $2,280 (est. $1,400 - $2,000; Lot 123: Dominus Vintage 1997, 1 impériale in original wooden case, $3,360 (est. $1,600 - $2,400); and Lot 124: Dominus Vintage 1998, 1 impériale in original wooden case, $1,200 (est. $800 - $1,200).
Opus One drew sales of Lot 125: Opus One Vintage 1981, 1 double-magnum in original wooden case, $600 (est. $600-$800); Lot 126: Opus One Vintage 1992, 1 impériale in original wooden case, $2,280 (est. $1,500-$2,000); Lot 127: Opus One Vintage 1994, 1 double-magnum in original wooden case, $2,280 (est. $1,000-$1,500); and Lot 128: Opus One Vintage 1997, 1 double-magnum in original wooden case, $1,080 (est. $700-$1,000).
Champagne collectors were able to add to their collections at prices within the estimates with Lot 129: Cristal, Louis Roederer, Millenium-Vintage 1990, Bottle numbered 40, 1 methuselah, $14,400 (est. 12,800 - $18,000); and Lot 130: Dom Perignon Vintage 1993, Bottle numbered 246 in original presentation wooden case, 1 jeroboam, $4,320 (est. $4,000 - $6,000).
Le Pin enthusiasts can now conduct their own flight tastings with the purchase of Lot 140: Le Pin-Vintage 1985, Pomerol, 1 dozen bottles in original wooden case, $18,000 (est. $13,000 - $18,000); Lot 141: Le Pin-Vintage 1989, Pomerol, 1 dozen bottles in original wooden case, $26,400 (est. $18,000 - $24,000); Lot 143: Le Pin-Vintage 1990, Pomerol, 1 dozen bottles in original wooden case, $43,200 (est. $30,000 - $50,000); and Lot 144: Le Pin-Vintage 1995, Pomerol, 1 dozen bottles in original wooden case, $13,200 (est. $9,000 - $12,000).
Collectors had to wait until the end of the evening to add Château Pétrus to their cellars with sales for Lot 153: Château Pétrus Vintage 1988, Pomerol, cru exceptionnel, 3 double-magnums, $12,000 (est. $10,000 - $15,000); Lot 156: Château Pétrus Vintage 1989, Pomerol, cru exceptionnel, 6 magnums, $50,400 (est. $42,000 - $65,000); Lot 157: Château Pétrus Vintage 1989, Pomerol, cru exceptionnel, 1 dozen bottles, $50,400 (est. $40,000 - $60,000); and Lot 160: Château Pétrus Vintage 1990, Pomerol, cru exceptionnel, 6 magnums, $50,400 (est. $42,000 - $65,000).
It was another fascinating evening at Christie's Wine Actions in New York, beginning with the pre-sale tasting and continuing with the hors d'oeuvres on the tables to nibble during the white-knuckle and the often-frantic bidding. 172 Lots sold for $2,150,400. See you at the next wine auction!
For information on Christie's Wine Auctions in New York or other locations, or the complete list of all wines offered and their selling prices for the March 14, 2008 auction, please visit the website: www.Christies.com.
All prices listed in the article include the buyer's premium and are rounded to the nearest dollar. In order to provide a better understanding of the wines that were auctioned; included is some wine terminology that perhaps you may not be familiar with, magnum = two bottles, double-magnum = four bottles, jeroboam (for Burgundy, Champagne) = four bottles, and jeroboam (Bordeaux) = six bottles or 5 liters.
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