Sotheby’s begins London sales with wines stored in remote grotto

Auction house Sotheby’s will begin its slate of fine wine sales in London this year with an array of rare labels that have been stored in a secret grotto in Northern Europe.

The entrance to the grotto

Taking place on 24 January, the 388-lot auction is expected to realise in the region of £825,000. All of the wines come from the cellar (or cave in this instance) of a single collector.

Although the wines at the sale (strongly slanted towards claret) such as 1989 Le Pin, 1996 Léoville Barton, 1996 Lafite, 1999 Cheval Blanc, 2010 Margaux, 2003 Ausone and many others are regulars on the auction circuit, the manner in which they have been kept is somewhat different.

The secret grotto located somewhere in Northern Europe (described as “beautiful” but with no further details given), is hewn into the base of a rock face and reportedly provides consistent and even temperatures and natural humidity – perfect storage conditions for fine wine.

Serena Sutcliffe MW, honorary chairman of Sotheby’s Wine, said: “In the dark days of winter, it takes a treasure trove of truly joyous wines to bring a smile to the face. This collection puts the greatest vinous gems of France under the spotlight. It is clear that the wines were chosen by someone with remarkable gastronomic and wine knowledge, who had access to the best châteaux in Bordeaux.”

Director of the wine department, James Reed, described what the grotto was like: This collection is the first I have ever found in a grotto. The vendor had given me explicit instructions, as well as a map, indicating exactly where I would find it. The entrance itself is at the foot of a sheer rock face; once inside, I was confronted by a bare rock cavern, with smaller chambers branching off at random.

“Underfoot was bare earth. Scattered about were pallets of wine, plastic wrapped against the damp, neatly and methodically stacked and with the case ends facing outwards to aid identification. To have the opportunity to present such a glorious collection from such great storage and with such strong provenance is undoubtedly a highlight of my 20-year career at Sotheby’s.”

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