S otheby's upcoming sale of Finest & Rarest Wines is led by two magnificent collections: the spectacular cellar of renowned antiquities collector George Ortiz, including two cases of the legendary Cheval Blanc 1947; and an exceptional cellar of French classics, featuring all the First Growths in the fabled 1982 vintage.
The Ortiz Collection
I t always gives us special pleasure when we are asked to value a family collection of wine - and we are even happier if we are then entrusted with bringing a part of the collection to auction. There is always the shared experience of discussing bottles with a wine-loving family and making decisions together, based on the consignor's plans and requirements.
This is a collection that combines truly gasp-making, historic wines with other bottles (or cases) that are delicious, while less exalted, that we all enjoy on a regular basis. These are the wines that are the springboard to greatness and that form our palate. So the choice here veers between First Growth 1947s to Super Seconds from the Nineties and the best of Médocain properties from this century at very accessible prices. Then there are really exciting stops along the way, such as full owc cases of Château Margaux 1982, which is showing in gorgeous fashion at the moment.
A supreme highlight is Cheval Blanc 1947, this legendary wine of huge richness and impact - one wonders how this family of connoisseurs could have resisted it, but then they always had a tempting selection before them. This is a wine that lives up to its myth, where absolute gold-standard provenance is of the essence. And, reminder alert, there are other First Growth 1947s in the collection, a surge of warmth and sunshine in the vineyard and in the glass.
Rivalling these giants of the Claret scene comes Yquem 1921, certainly one of the wines of my life, with the gift of eternity.
When talking of 'personal picks', at a level where I could indulge myself without a twinge of guilt, my immediate choice would be Calon Ségur 1990. Not only does this magnificent property in St.Estèphe possess huge personality, it also has that irresistible flavour of its almost 'maritime' appellation - and the 1990 is now perfectly poised for drinking take-off. The same criterion applies to Léoville Poyferré 1995, a wine that always 'personifies' the silky fruit of St. Julien.
Right across the board, there is a plethora of Magnums, the ideal size at every level in the vinous hierarchy. A very enthusiastic wine-loving friend has now become convinced that his drinking diet should henceforward consist almost entirely of Magnums - and I am inclined to agree with him. Whether the wine is young, middle-aged or mature, this format adds fresh verve and glow, from bouquet to palate. That works for me too and we have now instigated Magnum Dinners that prove our point. Indulging in this sale, you could start your own Magnum tradition with like-minded friends - just don't forget to ask me!
An Exceptional Cellar of French Classics
I f classicism means Claret, then this Cellar is the epitome of the genre. When intellectual rigour in selection is married to perfectionism in storage, all is well with the world. The truly great collections also show in the human background a profound love of subject, perfectly exemplified by the consignors here who knew exactly what they were doing and laid down a template for creating and maintaining a cellar of the greats. Equally at home on both the Left and Right Banks of Bordeaux, they made their choices amongst the most illustrious properties, concentrating on the great periods of these estates. Nothing was missed and no highly successful vintage was forgotten. All this was achieved over a span of decades, for here we have classic wines from the Fifties up to 2000. It follows that all the wines are ready to drink, suiting those of us who are either running out of patience, or of time. It also suits young connoisseurs who might sometimes tire of older wine-loving friends waxing lyrical about amazing bottles of yore – now there is a chance to see for themselves why reminiscent vocabulary can be both tantalising and annoying at the same time!
There are 1982s galore in this sale, some in exciting large format. We especially appreciate the extra youth of giant bottles when a wine is both historic and of venerable age – stunning examples here would have to be double magnums of Latour 1955, Lafite 1959, Petrus 1964 and 1975, Haut Brion and La Mission 1982. And a real ‘golden oldie’ would be an Imperial of Yquem 1983, glorious in this format at the wedding of a friend’s daughter, although my very recent experience of this miraculous wine was in bottle, drunk with that magical French creation, the galette des rois.
Sometimes, sagely, we do drink 75cl bottles and there are absolute gems in this size to be found throughout this collection. I would have to pick out Cheval Blanc 1964, Ducru Beaucaillou 1982, Léoville Lascases 1982 (you could also compare this with the magnums in this sale), Gruaud Larose 1961 and then perhaps a pitched battle between La Conseillante 1989 and Vieux Château Certan 1989. One would be tempted to do the same for Margaux 1983 and Palmer 1983, in this vintage that was so kind to the appellation, or even those two giants, Haut Brion and La Mission 1989, two marvels where one discusses style over intrinsic quality because the latter is a given. There is such depth in this collection that I nearly forgot the whole case of Lafleur 1982 – why not look at this with the Petrus 1982 for the ultimate experience.
Leaving Bordeaux, with a certain reluctance in this instance, one falls into another world of Burgundian hedonistic delight, headed by a DRC 12-bottle assortment in the wondrous 1985 vintage – and, in fact, one wonders for how long such treasures will still be found, particularly with this provenance and in this condition. One is in the realm of the Côte de Nuits Grands Crus and the going is good. It is also very fair in the Northern Rhône, with more Classics, and there is still room for one remarkable Spanish stand-out, Vega Sicilia Unico Reserva Especial (1989 Release 65-67-72), a wine that remains permanently in my heart, if not (regretfully) in my cellar.
It has been a privilege for us to inspect and catalogue this array of fabulous, Classic wines that do honour to their country and to those who make them. We know that these wines will give exquisite pleasure to those lucky enough to acquire them.