Book recounts story of deal to buy Stalin’s multi-million dollar wine cellar

A book, recently published by Viking Press, recounts the story of a deal to buy a multi-million dollar wine cellar once owned by Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia, and Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin.

Stalin’s Wine Cellar, published on 18 August, recounts the story of an Australian music promoter turned fine wine merchant’s dealings with a Georgian winery, which was said to house 30,000 to 50,000 bottles of wine once belonging to the last Tsar of Russia.

The fine wine merchant in question, John Baker, co-authored the book alongside writer and journalist Nick Place.

The work tells the story of Baker and his associate Kevin Hopko, who were sent a non-nonsensical list of wines by a client in the late 1990s. Baker later worked out that the list was transcribed phonetically, and that the wines allegedly in the cellar were produced by some of the most famous Bordeaux estates, with some bottles dating back as far as the early 1700s. These included wines produced by Châteaux Margaux, Latour, Lafite and Yquem.

Baker was told that Nicholas II’s wine collection became state property following the Russian Revolution (1917-1923) and was later owned by Stalin. Concerned that the property may be looted, Stalin was said to have split the collection, storing it in three different locations, one of which was a winery in Tbilisi.

Baker tells the story of his trip to Georgia, his encounter with winery owner Giorgi Aramhishvili and his armed bodyguard Zurab, efforts to authenticate the bottles, and a death threat that terminated the deal.

Described as a “wild and sometimes rough ride in the glamorous world of high-end wine”, more information about Baker and Price’s book is available here. 

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