At $1880 a sip...don't spill it!

By Alice-Azania Jarvis

For Christian Vanneque, it was the ambition of a lifetime.

A former sommelier, he had long yearned to own a bottle of 1811 Chateau d'Yquem. Toffee-coloured, able to improve "indefinitely" with age, the sweet Sauterne has been compared to "liquid creme brulee".

Now Mr Vanneque will be able to make his own assessment, having purchased the wine for a record-breaking £75,000 (NZ$141,318) in a one-off auction at London's Ritz hotel.

At just under half the price of the most expensive bottle of wine ever - a 1947 French Cheval-Blanc (a red) sold for £192,000 last November - it has secured a place in history as the most expensive white wine ever bought.

The £75,000 bottle will go on display in one of Mr Vanneque's two restaurants in Bali, the SIP Sunset Grill.

"It will be featured and displayed in a bulletproof showcase, like a painting, so people can see it easily," he said at a press conference in London yesterday.

"This showcase will be temperature and humidity controlled. It'll be a mini-Fort Knox, impossible to open."

Steven Williams, founder of The Antique Wine Company which sold the bottle, said the price was determined by several things.

"We take into account the condition of the bottle, whether any wine has evaporated, the integrity of the label," he explained.

Mr Williams acquired the wine in 2007 after buying the entire cellar of a private European collector, and was at great pains to ensure that every box was ticked.

"I worked with the Chateau itself to verify the label, the ink, the cork. If it is a good vintage it will have a longer life - when you have a great vintage, in perfect condition, that creates its own market."

Indeed, when Mr Williams' boutique sent out an email to its 40,000-odd customer base, they received interest from across the globe. But Mr Williams said he was not surprised by the identity of the buyer, saying Mr Vanneque "is one of the most eminent wine professionals in the world".

Ultimately, though, Mr Vanneque plans to drink his purchase.

"I will never resell it," he insisted.

"I'm not a fancy collector. I'm not rich. I work very hard. This is important that it's not connected to investing. I'm a sommelier. Wine is for drinking."

Indeed, he may even have his drinking partner singled out already.

"He has invited me to share it with him in about five years' time," said Mr Williams.

At almost £20,000 per glass, that's not a bad offer at all.


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