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Sotheby’s to Hold the Biggest Champagne-Only Auction to Date

Sotheby’s to Hold the Biggest Champagne-Only Auction to Date

It’s easy to get lost among the amazing wines on offer: six bottles of Domaine D’Auvenay 2009 Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru; 12 bottles of Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1999 in an “assortment case” from Burgundy’s best vineyards; a single magnum of Dom Pérignon 1966 P3 Champagne. These are just three of the gems up for grabs (with estimates up to $140,000, $95,000, and $11,000, respectively) at two upcoming auctions of wine from the renowned cellar of epicurean and art lover Pierre Chen. The first sale, to be held on June 20 in Paris, is said the first-ever single owner auction composed entirely of Champagne. The second auction, set to occur in Beaune on July 2, features the “crème de la crème of Burgundy wines,” and is the first non-charity auction to be held in Burgundy.

In a series of sales that began last November in Hong Kong, Sotheby’s is auctioning about 25,000 bottles from Chen’s collection, and the estimated total they are expected to bring in is $50 million, making this the most valuable wine collection ever to come to market. The bottles hit the block at a time that the auction market for wine is going strong: Sotheby’s wine sales hit a record total of $159 million in 2023, surpassing the previous year’s total of $158 million, and up significantly from the $58 million in sales in 2013. “The significance of a single owner collection like Mr. Chen’s, where provenance is so important and assured, reminds the market of the long-standing interest for well-sourced, sensibly priced rare wines,” Nick Pegna, Sotheby’s global head of wine and spirits, tells Robb Report. “Both collections of Champagne and Burgundy are so deep and so well researched that there is something here for any interested collector.”

The 1,850 bottles from Chen’s cellar have an estimated value of $1.6 to $2.1 million. Titled “The Epicurean’s Atlas—The Ultimate Champagnes,” this auction showcases the headline names of the region such as Krug, Dom Pérignon, Salon, and Roederer, with many bottles from the legendary and impossible-to-procure vintages of the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. The Champagne market is in the midst of a multi-year upward trend, with the price-performance of the most sought-after and collected Champagnes currently sitting about 50 percent higher than they were five years ago. Sotheby’s has seen a three-fold increase in the value and volume of Champagne in its sales, which grew from $1.9 million to $5.3 million from 2022 to 2023. In addition, for the first time a Champagne producer, Krug, has made it into Sotheby’s top 10 producers sold at auction by value. In addition to those mentioned above, Chen’s extensive collection contains bottles of Pol Roger Cuvée Winston Churchill, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs, and Bollinger Vielles Vignes Françaises.

The wines in the Burgundy sale, named Live in the Vines, feature a Who’s Who of Burgundy’s most outstanding and coveted producers, including Domaine Leroy D’Auvenay, Coche-Dury, Leflaive, Dujac, Rousseau, and Ponsot. Connoisseurs who prefer large formats will have their eyes on a one-of-a-kind vertical of magnums of Faiveley Musigny, from a vineyard owned by Chen and managed by Faiveley, from which a limited number of magnums are produced annually for Chen’s personal consumption. Besides the ones in his cellar, no other magnums have ever been produced or sold of this extraordinary wine. Burgundy has seen the strongest propulsion of any category of wine over the last 10 years; its sales have grown exponentially at Sotheby’s and elsewhere in the auction market. Last year, four of the auction house’s top 10 producers were from Burgundy; three of those producers held the first three spots on the list. For the second year in a row, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti ranked second, with an increase of 40 percent, while sales of Domaine Leroy D’Auvenay more than doubled.

An engineer by trade, Taiwan native Chen founded the electrical component company Yageo in 1977. He traces his love of wine back to his childhood, when his family made and drank wine at home during a time that most of his countrymen preferred whiskey. A self-professed “food fanatic,” Chen studied wine so that he could take his wine and food pairing experiences to the next level. He often calls chefs he knows in Paris, Taiwan, or Japan to ask about their changing tasting menus so that he can choose the best wine from his cellar to accompany the meal. He is fond of sharing a glass with chefs, many of whom he says wouldn’t otherwise have “the opportunity to experience first-hand how these wines match with their cuisine.” The lucky few who make the winning bids at this upcoming pair of extraordinary auctions will also have the chance to enjoy the wines that Pierre Chen has lovingly amassed in over four decades of collecting.

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