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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - An anonymous French wine collector is giving new meaning to the term spring cleaning - at least when it comes to emptying out his cellar.
He is selling 315 bottles spanning more than 60 vintages from the top Bordeaux houses at Christies in Geneva on May 17 and was also behind the sale of 158 bottles of three centuries of Chateau d'Yquem in Hong Kong last May, which netted slightly more than $1 million.
Michael Ganne, Christie's wine specialist in Geneva, described the mystery seller in a telephone interview as a man in his 60s who began buying large quantities of wines in the 1980s.
"He still has quite a lot of wine left," Ganne said. "It is, after all, just 315 bottles. Granted one of the rarest collections, but ... when you have thousands of bottles, it isn't very much."
Christie's estimates that the 315 bottles, which consists of one bottle from each of the post-World War Two vintages that Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Margaux, Mouton-Rothschild and Haut-Brion produced, will fetch between $696,000 and $929,000. The 315 bottles are being sold as one lot in the auction.
Such collections are called verticals because they allow different vintages of the same wine to be tasted. By buying all five of the top growths, it would also be possible to have horizontal tastings, where the wines are all from the same vintage, but different chateaux.
Ganne could not explain why the Frenchman was selling the bottles, though he did say the collector had duplicates of almost everything.
"It depends on the vintage. Some vintages are really, really difficult to find," he said. "It's quite easy to find a Lafite '45, but it's really, really difficult to find a Lafite '46."
Bottles of Lafite '45 can sell for between $2,490 and $7,800, while a case of 12 bottles of the vintage can be found for $51,480. But a bottle of the '46 can carry a price tag of more than $17,000.
When the unidentified Frenchman started collecting, the top growths could have been purchased for about $100 a bottle.
Not every house released a vintage in every year, Ganne explained. Some harvests were not up to their individual standards.
Mouton-Rothschild produced two labels for the same vintage in 1978 and 1993. The first was because Baron Philippe deRothschild liked both labels that the artist had submitted and the second because U.S. regulators objected to a label featuring a reclining, nude girl. Ganne said all four labels were represented.
"This is not only a lifetime dedication to wine," Ganne wrote in the auction catalog, "but an ordeal of patience and determination."