As Europe nursed its wounds right after the Second World War’s end in 1945, top Burgundy producer Romanee-Conti made just 600 bottles of dark red nectar before pulling up its vines for replanting.
Yesterday (Oct. 13), two of those 600 were sold in separate auction bids for a total of just over $1 million at Sothebys in New York. Three more bottles from the 1937 vintage went for a total of $930,000.
All five bottles beat the previous record for most expensive bottle of wine of any size, a $304,375 six-liter bottle of Cheval-Blanc 1947, sold in Geneva in 2010. (The records don’t include bottles auctioned for charity.) The two 1945 bottles also eclipsed the previous record for a standard-sized wine bottle—$233,000 at a Hong Kong auction in 2010.
The highest bid was for the first bottle from 1945, which went for $558,000. That’s 17 times more expensive than Sothebys’ upper estimate of $32,000. A few minutes later, the second bottle of 1945 sold for $496,000. Three magnums of the 1937 were then sold for $310,000 each, having been given an upper estimate of $40,000.
The total collection, from the personal cellar of wine producer Robert Drouhin, sold for $7.3 million. Nine of its 100 bottles went for six-figure sums.
The 1945 vintage is “rare and wonderful,” Serena Sutcliffe, head of Sothebys international wine department, wrote in the lot notes. “The best bottles are so concentrated and exotic, with seemingly everlasting power—a wine at peace with itself.”
In her description of the 1937 bottles, she recalls being served a glass at a friend’s birthday evening. “Incredible projection of super scent. Unbelievable taste of rich fruit, pure Christmas pudding. The longest finish in the world. Totally enchanting—I nurtured my glass all evening,” she wrote. “At this age, it is the luck of the draw and, this time, boy, were we lucky.”