Some people enjoy collecting empty bottles, others have a passion for wine labels. These are the lucky ones. For most wine collectors the agonising question hangs over every bottle in the cellar: to drink or not to drink? For unlike almost any other collectable item except maybe fireworks, the enjoyment of a bottle of wine leads to its destruction. I have met collectors who don't drink, but enjoy an exquisitely displayed wine collection as part of the decoration of their house, and – as far as I am concerned – as a symbol of their iron will. Then there are the investors. One wise client who sells regularly with us bought 1982 first-growth Bordeaux and Romanée-Conti in the early 1990s. Twenty years on, his investment shows a very healthy return, with a case of 1982 Petrus now offered at £40,000 - 60,000 and 1988 Romanée-Conti at £70,000 - 90,000. But while most investors probably never meet their wine face-to-face, the vast majority of those who actually build and fill a cellar do so with the intention of enjoying their purchases.There is, of course, a way around the problem of maintaining a collection and enjoying it to the full, and that is to buy lots of everything. Two cellars which have benefited from this generous approach are featured in our July sale.
The first is the contents of an exquisitely laid-out and maintained collection from deep in an Austrian hillside. The late owner was clearly a man who liked to drink the best of everything, especially Mouton and Lafite – of which he made an extensive collection spanning nearly 60 years. This has allowed us to put together two 'vertical' runs of Mouton from 1989-2008. Other great names from around the world include Masseto, Vega Sicilia and Ridge.
The other consignment, which will be offered over several sales, represents the surplus from the working stock of a renowned university college, an institution which sets the highest standards in its wine purchasing – as it does in its academic expertise. In the days when Fellows were not permitted to marry, and had to dine in every night, the consumption was prodigious; but rival attractions and a more international mix of members these days has left the keeper of the cellar looking for ways to match supply to demand.
Bonhams is delighted to be able to offer these two collections, from which you will have the opportunity to add some really unusual and desirable wine to your own cellar. The question remains: do you plan to drink them or just...?
Anthony Barne MW is Head of Wine, Bonhams UK.