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An Expansive Cellar Goes Under The Hammer

One of our most expansive auctions since the hugely popular James Halliday Collection has arrived. The scale of this private collection is breathtaking. So much so that we are bringing you seven separate auctions over two months. Leading with the Champagne auction, we will progress through Australia and New Zealand then the USA followed by a Bordeaux focus not to be missed. Then we’ll present a multinational auction covering Spain, Italy, South Africa and Portugal, and then head back to France with an auction focusing on the Rhône, Alsace, Cognac and more. Then for the crescendo, the Burgundy auction. Browse the auctions here or sign up to auction alerts here so you don’t miss a bid.
Our vendor wishes to remain anonymous but we did get a chance to have a chat and delve into the motivation and inspiration behind building such a prodigious collection. Our vendor began collecting wine in the mid-90s and has some of the world’s greatest Champagnes and a further French collection that, without the fizz, would be the envy of many collectors.

 

Auctions Highlights
Ch Lafite-Rothschild Pauillac 2015 - Magnum
Colgin Tychson HIll Cabernet Sauvignon St Helena AVA 2015
E. Guigal La Landonne Cote Rotie 2005
Alvaro Palacios L'Ermita Garnacha Priorato DO 2005 - Magnum
Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2019
Ch d'Yquem 2001 - Magnum
Dom Bouchard Père & Fils La Cabotte Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru 2018 - Magnum
Krug & Co Brut 1996 - Magnum
Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé Reims 2008 - Magnum
Salon Cuvee 'S' Sparkling Chardonnay Le Mesnil-sur-Oger 2002 - Magnum
Our Head of Auctions Michael Anderson had a chance to find out a little more about our mysterious vendor.
What is your first fine wine memory?
Tasting 1996 Dom Perignon by the fire with mum, dad and my sister as a kid while having takeaway Chinese on a Sunday night. In those days, you had to take your own pots and containers to the Chinese restaurant to let them fulfil your order. Fun! I recall the Champagne was like silk, so bubbly and beautifully refined. Heaven!
Who has been your biggest wine influence, have there been more than one as your tastes have changed?
The people who have mentored me have never changed - what they don’t know about French wines you wouldn’t want to know.
What are your favourite styles right now?
Alsace Riesling - it's awesome! I love the wines from Alsace; their longevity and how well they can go with munster and oysters (not at the same time)! I have got to know a few of the producers and they are fun and make great wines. They are also great dinner companions!
Favourite wine region to visit?
The Rhône. I have always marvelled at the slopes and how the vines grip on to the steep hills. I love the food and people of the Rhône and above all I love the truffles! La Beaugraviere in Mondragon is a must!
Most of the winemakers are so social and I have always enjoyed their companionship and love of wine. I love exploring the Roman ruins and the history is extraordinary.
I also was very fortunate one year to try all wines of Rayas at the winery - both white and red wines - out of barrel. It was hard to believe the run down facilities could produce those wines. I was convinced they were made elsewhere and shipped in!
I have been fortunate to meet many of the great winemakers in the Rhône including Andre Brunel; three generations at the same time of the Clape winery - Auguste Clape; his son Pierre-Marie and his son Olivier Clape. Tasting wine out of barrels with all three was a great moment. I loved meeting Andre Brunel and his Les Cailloux is a beautiful wine. We have really enjoyed the wines of Pierre Fabre at Mont Redon. Some of our favourite little restaurants are in Gigondas and what a lovely village!
What is the best bottle of wine you have ever had? And why?
I can't think of just one wine that would stand out over all others. A lot depends upon my mood and tastes, where I am and who I am with! For some reason a really fond memory is regularly having fish and ships on Sunday nights in summer on Avalon Beach, Sydney with a bottle of Kistler Chardonnay of any description!
I always associate one friend with Trimbach Cuvee Frederic Emile and oysters. Mum always loves her French white Burgundies and a roast with us. No great answer but they are fond memories of people, places and then the wine.
‘it is not just about the wine...’

 

As I reflect on things, my wine tastes have changed and so the answer would be different quite regularly! What they all have in common is it is not just about the wine: it's about everything else and the wine at that time and must involve friends and family.
Take us through your wine drinking journey. What did you start drinking early on and how have those tastes changed?
I deck handed during university on Captain Cook Cruises and one night a Japanese patron left me a bottle of 12-year-old Glenlivet. As soon as I tried it there was no looking back. I collected every Scottish Malt Whisky that was in commercial production through my university years (which included visiting most of the Scottish operating distilleries). After that journey, there was a bit of a gap (no money) and in the mid nineties one of my business colleagues said I had to meet Jon Osbeiston to broaden my wine knowledge and the rest was history.
To learn about Burgundy and Rhône wines and visit all those cellars in France was awesome. I learnt so much and met so many winemakers. It was fun and my knowledge grew a lot in those years. I read as much as I could. My favourite books still are Parker's Wines of the Rhône Valley and Coates Côte D'Or. I travelled with those books, made notes and went back to those notes years later to see how they reflected the wine in bottle. I travelled to France pre lockdown and still enjoyed it and learnt so much.
You have an incredibly diverse cellar of fine wine, how did your collection come about?
Buying what I love! Researching and reading a lot and buying what my tastes are at that time which have changed a lot over 30 years.
From your cellar, what wines will be hardest to let go of?
Salon Champagne. It's heaven. The 2008 magnums are unique as there were only 8,000 magnums made and the 2008 vintage is legendary - up there with 1982, 1966 and 1928 (I am told…).
‘These are all great wines. They have been looked after and treated like my children.’
What do you look forward to most about your carefully curated cellar going into the homes of thousands around Australia and the world?
These are all great wines. They have been looked after and treated like my children. I will never ever get to drink them all. I hope each bottle is enjoyed by other collectors; people who want to start collecting and people who want to try a bottle now.
Stylistically you have some of, if not all of, the greatest Champagnes on earth - is this a special love of yours? Why?
Dad loved Champagne so it must be a genetic thing!! Champagne is a regular drink and I have never put it on a pedestal for special events or the like. Dad just enjoyed it with his takeaway chinese and nothing has changed with me except I just don't drink it with Chinese food!
I have never gotten used to the low/no dosage Champagnes although I know that's not trendy to say. I prefer a well balanced Champagne and although I blow hot and cold on this, I prefer a blend with more Pinot Noir than Chardonnay but after that it's all about the wine; year and winemaker! I enjoy Blanc de Blancs but it depends on the wine. The Taittinger Comtes is superb. I have to say, I also did like the old Churchill line that he "could not live without Champagne. In victory I deserve it. In defeat I need it."

 

‘...a half bottle of Krug Grand Cuvée each time I have my haircut!’

 

I love the variety in the houses and there is still clearly a lot of vintage variation. Champagne can be enjoyed anytime and I must say my favourite place is my hairdresser where we enjoy a half bottle of Krug Grand Cuvée each time I have my haircut!

 

The auction market for wine has skyrocketed in the last few years - is this the biggest upward trend you have seen in your time in the industry?
No. These things are cyclical. There was a huge boom for Bordeaux wines as the Asian markets opened up. What I would say as more and more people appreciate wine, the greater the overall demand there is and will be which means that wines that were more readily available now are scarce and so in my view there is a much broader appreciation of wine which has created a greater underlying demand for quality wine over the last 30 years. That means by and large prices are only going one way!
You have clearly predicted the trends of today as your cellar will attest - what do you think is the next big thing in fine wine?
More affordable, quirky wines and locations. We have always loved our South African wines - Vin de Constance is a global classic for example. I think lesser known appellations and village wines in Burgundy as quality continues to improve. There are some amazing Argentinian wines and some of the 100% Malbec wines produced there by producers such as Archaval Ferrer are truly outstanding.
We have always loved wines from Rioja. I was fortunate enough to meet the family and have lunch with those who own Artadi and I have visited the El Pison vineyard. The quality of Portuguese wines has been consistently good. I love wines from the Douro. I also think Spanish Sherry is making its way back big time and I always have a glass before dinner - beautifully chilled and so unique a flavour! The quality of Palomino, Amontillado and Manzanilla Sherries is outstanding.
I love Tasmanian Rieslings and I think the quality is exceptional. Who knows, with global warming we may have Antarctic wines!
Do you have any gaps in your wine collecting that you'd like to fill?
I have a huge gap in my Italian wine knowledge. So next on my knowledge journey is definitely Italian wines and grape varieties as I have had it easy learning about French wines in comparison.
‘Knowledge is king and so have fun but pay attention to what you are drinking and learn about the wine in front of you.’
Do you have any advice for budding wine collectors?
Try different things. Focus on a few areas and learn. Read as much as you can. Until I had understood the way wines are classified (e.g. Grand Cru; Premier Cru etc.)
(and of course all very differently in France) I found it very hard to understand labelling and quality (and in the case of Bordeaux, historical quality).
Knowledge is king and so have fun but pay attention to what you are drinking and learn about the wine in front of you. Have fun and enjoy wine with friends, family and colleagues. It's a great relationship opener. Oh and as my local Korean restaurateur says - don’t become a wine wanker!
Words to live by.
One of the finest private auctions of the year without doubt. This collection is a 30-year story of passion, curiosity, and unceasingly sense of the pleasure of sharing wine. Browse the auctions now.

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ABN: 77 159 767 843. New South Wales: Liquor Act 2007. No Alcohol can be sold or supplied to anyone under 18. It's against the law. License Number: LIQP770010303 Victoria: WARNING - Under the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998, it is an offence: To supply alcohol to a person under the age of 18 years [Penalty exceeds $19,000]; For a person under the age of 18 years to purchase or receive liquor [Penalty exceeds $800]. License Number: 32055289