Spoiler Alert: Possibly Oxidized Big-Ticket Bottle Sells for $18,000


The opening paragraph of Thomas Buckley’s May 29 article in Bloomberg Business tells the story quite well:  “A bottle of one of the world’s rarest wines sold for $18,000 at a London auction Thursday. There’s just one problem – it may be undrinkable.”

The wine in question, sold at a Bonhams auction house, is a Chateau Mouton Rothschild from 1945. Though the price tag is hefty – about $1,500 a glass, Buckley calculated – the bottle was a bit of a disappointment.

“The selling price … was at the low end of expectations,” the story said.

The culprit? Oxidation.

Without tasting the wine, Bonhams wine boss Richard Harvey told Buckley he knows something may be amiss because there is a lot of space between the wine and the bottom of the cork (known as the “ullage level”).

A picture of the bottle shows the inky black liquid leveling off a few centimeters below where the shoulder of the bottle meets with the neck.

“(This) points to an increased chance of the wine being oxidized and undrinkable,” Harvey said.

According to Buckley, the wine could have fetched twice as much if it was in better condition.

Those wondering why someone would spend nearly 20 grand on a bottle of what amounts to odd tasting vinegar only have to look as far as the wine’s label to understand its significance, Buckley noted.
“Even spoiled, the claret is sought after for its historical value,” he wrote. “The V on its label, designed by the french illustrator Philippe Jullian to celebrate the Allies’ victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War, also represents triumph over difficult weather conditions for Bordeaux vineyards at the time, including heavy frost and a heatwave that led to a drought.”

Even though the wine may have lost its taste-bud prowess, Bonhams considered it quality enough to put it to auction.

“In its catalog, Bonhams says ullage levels increase with age but the house only auctions wines it considers to be in sound condition,” Buckley wrote.

Though the wine’s sale price may have been half of what could have been expected of a pristine bottle, the price tag was enough to pay for a decent education in London.

“At 11,750 pounds, which includes a fee of 1,750 pounds to cover administrative costs,” Buckley wrote, “the bottle’s price would cover the full tuition for a year at the London School of Economics.”

Photo Credit: Bonhams

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  • Snooth User: DBellinger
    1468453 24

    While I wouldn't spend that kind of coin on a bottle, mostly because I don't have said coins, I can see the historic signifance of the wine itself

    Jul 08, 2015 at 11:27 AM

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