A Monumental Inspection, a Monumental Collection

By Stephen Mould

T he inspection process for Parts II and III of “A Monumental Collection From the Cellars of a Connoisseur” required great teamwork from the London Wine Specialists James Reed, Damian Tillson, Claire Collini, Frédéric Guyot du Repaire and Caroline Shepherd.  

Our first task was to set up inspection tables so that we could examine the wines and devise a system for the warehouse technicians to bring us the wine in batches.  As the wine was “in bond” and “duty paid”, we had to ensure the wines were kept on separate pallets. We also had to select wines for photography for both our Hong Kong and London catalogues.  For the photography, we considered all three sales so there would be a variety of images representing the whole collection across our catalogues.

We used a light box to meticulously check the colour of the white wines, which included Montrachet from Domaine de la Romanée Conti, Ramonet and Jacques Prieur and Meursault, Perrières from Coche Dury. We also had an electronic magnifier linked to our laptop to check bottles in detail.


The older vintages, in particular, needed very careful inspection, noting the ullage (level) of the wine – whether in or below the neck, the condition of the labels – whether perfect, or damaged or torn or soiled, and the capsule condition – whether corroded or damaged by the divider.

The wines kept on coming – from Bordeaux there were magnums from Latour 1929 to Petrus 2007, double magnums from Cheval Blanc 1947 to Margaux 2006, rare Jeroboams of Latour 1961 and 1970, Imperials from Lafite 1982 to Latour 2005 as well as regular bottle sizes from 1945 to 2010. Burgundy included wines from Domaine de la Romanée Conti, Henri Jayer, Georges Roumier, Anne Gros and Claude Dugat.  

During the inspection process, we applied unique case numbers either for Hong Kong or London and these were noted against the wine on the packing sheets, along with our notes on the wine, vintage, condition and packaging details.  At the end of each day, Caroline scanned our inspection sheets and emailed them to Michelle Chan in our Hong Kong office for cataloguing.

Following inspection, we had to load the cases onto a pallet, which was a work of art as the wine came in many different sized formats.  Once the pallet had been built, we produced a pallet sheet listing all the case numbers on each pallet.  We then took photographs on an iPad of each side of the pallet before shrink-wrapping for security.


Once the wine was palletised, we arranged for a shipper to collect the wine. For the Hong Kong shipment, we used a “reefer” or refrigerated container, which keeps the wine at a constant temperature of 14 degrees Celsius.  The wine destined for Hong Kong was collected from two separate locations in the UK – a total of 13 pallets or 652 cases of wine.  At each location, James oversaw the collection and took photographs of the pallets being loaded and a seal being applied to the reefer, again as a security measure.  From here, the wine was taken to the port of export for shipment to Crown Cellars in Hong Kong.  It takes around four to five weeks for the container ship to reach its final destination.

The following day, James oversaw the collection of the wine for our London sale, with the “in bond” pallets being transported to Octavian where they are stored in their underground vaults, and the “duty paid” pallets to Sotheby's own temperature controlled storage facility.  

Part II of the Monumental Collection will be sold in London on 29 March, following on from Part I, the US portion of the sale, on 25 March in New York.  The three-part auction series will conclude with Part III in Hong Kong on 1 April.


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