Julian Barnes

Did You Get Black Truffles on the Nose?

Chateau Latour: The History of a Great Vineyard 1331-1992

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Haut-Brion

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On 14 June, Christie’s auctioned the cellar of a well-known wine authority and burnt Lloyd’s name. At the heart of the sale were two ‘super-lots’ of 195 and 197 cases, for each of which the reserve was a trifling £200,000-300,000. One sold for £200,000, the other for £340,000. Elsewhere, reserves were exceeded to such an extent that foreign buyers who had flown in especially for the sale kept their hands stuffed Atherton-style in their pockets. There was a man in a blue suit who, whenever he required a lot, simply raised his palm and kept it aloft until the wine in question was knocked down to him. It was rumoured – and denied and rumoured again – that he was bidding on behalf of one of our plumper knights of the musical theatre. Whether or not this was so, the prices achieved staggered even blasé vintners. A case of 1982 Mouton-Rothschild, which normally sells for £1,200 or so, went for £3,100; cases of 1947 Cheval Blanc (reserve £10,000- 15,000) for £16,000 to £18,000 each; three bottles of the fashionable super-Tuscan Sassicaia (reserve £200-300) for £1,200.

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