President Francois Hollande has many notale differences from his predecessor. But the one that most concerns us: he actually likes wine.
So it may come as somewhat of a surprise that he is trimming the presidential wine cellar, putting 1,200 bottles–about 10 percent of the stash–on the block. But at least it’s for a good cause since the sale at the end of May will go toward a cellar rehab.
The cellar has some gems, as you might expect, including 1990 Petrus. But all the wines have the patina of the state functions. Virginie Routis, chef sommelière of the Palace, made the selections about which wines to put on the block. Kapandji Morhange will start the sale on May 30.
Thanks to a 2012 posting on La Feuille de Vigne, we have some intel on who liked what at the Elysée:
* Charles De Gaulle created the wine cellar
* Madame Chirac had a weak spot for Pauillac wines, which explains why they are overrepresented.
* St. Estephe? The site credits these selections to Mitterrand.
* Burghound? That was Valérie Giscard d’Estaing who was a member of the Chevalier du Tastevin. Read more…
In a talk, the renowned innovator and leading protagonist of molecular gastronomy laid out what’s happening at the new El Bulli Foundation, the successor to the famed restaurant. The sprawling project includes a museum at the site of the El Bulli restaurant outside of Barcelona, a center in the city (“El Bulli DNA”) which will host 20 chefs as interns, and an online knowledge base known as “El Bullipedia.” It’s set to open March 15, 2015.
For one fleeting month of the year, the center in Barcelona will provide dining experiences (they will not take reservations). Half the seats will be to students and others as a form of social work. The other half will be allocated to members, with membership capped at about 200. “The first who have the chance to become members will be those who have helped us through the auctions in New York and Hong Kong,” Adria told the group in the large hall on the seventh floor at Sotheby’s. Members will also be able to spend a day with the creative team.
Along with Adria were two sommeliers from the restaurant who continue to work with the foundation. I asked them about the challenge of pairing wine with such unusual dishes. David Seijas said it was a “nightmare” pairing wines with the food since, among other factors, diners were presented with 50 (!) courses in a meal during the last year of the restaurant. Aside from the sheer number of dishes, he said a challenge was to follow the unconventional ordering which could zigzag from vegetables to seafood to game and back again with diners never knowing when a sweet course was coming or even if it would be the end. “There is no order,” he said, “there is only Ferran’s order! He loves surprises.” Read more…
Want to drink from a 12-liter bottle of Domaine Serene with William Shatner? Or get lessons from the cast of Dancing with the Stars at the Bel Air home of Ann Colgin? Or stay at a Napa vintner’s guest cottage and drive his Porsche 911 convertible around for a month? Or attend the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes with 5L Napa cab in tow? Then get ready to start bidding at Naples Winter Wine Festival in January. The event is a charity auction run by Naples Children and Education Foundation. Selected lots follow after the jump: Read more…
Just when the wine auction market’s froth appeared to be blowing off, the fine wine world is bracing for some foam.
El Bulli, the famed restaurant where the entire season used to book up in minutes and futuristic dishes paraded before diners all night long, closed last year (but will reopen as the ElBullifoundation). Now, wine-searcher.com reports that the owners will be selling off the contents of the restaurant’s wine cellar.
The collection has many mature wines and it remains to be seen what the estimated 10,000 bottles will fetch at an upcoming Sotheby’s auction. But perhaps the big question for bidders as well as chef Ferran Adria and his partner Juli Soler is whether they will apply the same creativity in the sale as they did in the kitchen. Thirteen-year-old albarino may fetch one price, but what about doing the food-wine pairing for collectors and selling an essence of oyster and albarino microfoam served on the half shell? Or an orb of Corton-Charlemagne lobster? Or reformed into already-fermented grapes with “with their mad sphere-making gadgets and such“? With such an imprimatur, the wines would be harder to counterfeit.
Checking in with the fine wine market, a few datapoints:
* Lafite-Rothschild still commands large dollar amounts, but the bloom may be coming off the rose. Liv-Ex chronicles recent softness in Lafite prices. Perhaps the Asian buyers are no longer willing to pay exorbitant premiums to other Bordeaux wines. Of note, a case of 1961 La Mission Haut Brion just sold for US$59,000 in Hong Kong last weekend.
* Interest in Burgundy appears to be increasing. DRC just hit new highs in London and New York.
* But spreads remain across venues with Hong Kong buyers paying on aver 48% more for DRC than in New York. As a reminder, shipping a case shipping a case of wine from NY to HK costs less than $50.
SIPPED: boom times
Wine auctions brought in a total of $408 million, nearly doubling the 2009 take according to Peter Meltzer. Hong Kong boomed, with $165 millon in wine auctions, surpassing New York’s $154 million. According to the article, the five largest auction houses by wine gross are: Acker worldwide, Sotheby’s worldwide, Christie’s worldwide, Zachys worldwide, and Hart Davis Hart Chicago. The highest price paid for one 750ml bottle was $232,692 for 1869 Lafite. Bottoms up!
Chinese Central Television, an outfit not known for investigative journalism, has outed 30 wineries practicing wine adulteration in Changli County of Habei Province, leading to their closure. [ShanghaiDaily.com]
SIPPED: the stuff of sitcoms
Not all the “hot” wine was mulled over the holidays: two thieves broke into rapper 50 Cent’s Connecticut mansion; one was found in the closet drinking wine from his cellar. [People]
SIPPED: the hard stuff
A Napa vintner is distilling sauvignon blanc vodka and selling it as varietal and vintage. After six distillations, is there really any trace of either? [winesandvines.com]
SIPPED: the free stuff
Samples of wine and spirits can now be poured in California grocery stores. Happy shopping! [sacbee.com]
SPIT: basement dwellers
The WIne Advocate publisher asserts that “two dozen troublemakers,” basement-dwelling, “generally single men” led to eBob paywall. He also hints at his heir apparent. [winebersekers]
SIPPED: wine frontiers
Remember those vines planted in Norway? Well, now there are also vines planted in Tanzania, specifically the flat area around Dodoma (come on, Arusha, where’s cuvée Kilimanjaro?). [allafrica.com]
“Lloyd Webber to auction wine collection to affluent Asians,” read the headline on Reuters.
I posted about it over on the Dr. Vino Facebook wall. Reader Richard Henshaw commented there, pointing out that this wasn’t the first time that Lord Lloyd Webber had sold wine at auction and that when he had his first sale, many of the wines that were auctioned were, in fact, young wines. Henshaw writes “I remember thinking that this was a novel way for a celebrity to monetize his fame. (Suckers beware!)”
Indeed, this 1997 article from Slate (wait, State was around in 1997?), shows the premiums buyers paid over retail, sometimes on the order of 100%.
Ah, a mere 100%!? Given that Lafite 2009 futures were just snapped up at four times retail it will be interesting to see what premium this smaller collection that includes ’05 Mouton and Lafite achieves in January in Hong Kong. It may make Lloyd Webber laugh. Or make him cry. But it won’t be better than Cats (for him, financially).
As has been covered elsewhere, one Asian telephone bidder snapped up three bottles of 1869 Lafite for $232,000 each–a new per bottle record. Other rarities appeared in the sale of 2,000 bottles spanning 139 years.
But one aspect of the sale that struck me was the premium paid over retail prices. Decanter.com has a helpful rundown on the spreads, many of which are justifiable given the provenance of the wines (they were coming directly from Lafite’s cellars in the Medoc.) Most notable for me were the 2009s and 2008s which are still only available on a futures basis–the wine has not even been put in the bottle, much less left the property yet. In other words, whether you buy it in New York, LA, Hong Kong or London, the wine has yet to be shipped so you’d think the prices would harmonize (with the exception of duties). Yet Decanter reports the prices paid for 2008 futures were 102% over retail and the 2009s were almost 300% over retail. Similarly, Hong Kong hammer prices frequently fetch higher prices than the same wines in New York of London.
I called Jamie Ritchie, Head of Wine at Sotheby’s New York office, to ask why. He described the scene last week in Hong Kong as “the best you can get” as an auctioneer: the room was full to capacity, with a lot of excitement, and a lot of bidding in the room and on the telephone. As to the premium for the 2008s, he said they announced the new Chinese character on the bottle and there was “a lot of appreciation for that gesture.” And why pay $70,000 a case for the 2009s (that sell for $17,000 a case in New York)? “Sheer unbridled enthusiasm,” he said.
How much does it cost to physically ship a case of wine to Hong Kong from either New York or Bordeaux to Hong Kong? Depending on volume, Ritchie said about $15 to $40 a case. There are no duties.
Sotheby’s next auction in Hong Kong will be January 22 and 23.