Rare 74-year-old bottle of wine goes to auction

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 1:40 pm on 6 March 2019

A 1945 bottle of Château Latour is set to go on auction in Auckland next week. The reserve has been set at $4,000.
A 1945 bottle of Château Latour is set to go on auction in Auckland next week. The reserve has been set at $4,000.  Photo: The Wine Auction Room

What is the most you would be willing to pay for a bottle of wine? Would it be in the area of $4,000? That’s the reserve for a 74-year-old bottle of wine that is going to auction in Auckland next. Jesse asks wine connoisseur Reece Warren what makes this particular bottle so special? 

Listen to the interview here:


Jesse Mulligan: [00:00:00] What’s the most you’d be willing to pay for a nice bottle of wine? 40 bucks? 60 bucks? About 4000 dollars, that’s the opening bid for a 74-year-old bottle of Château Latour, which is going to auction in Auckland this week. So why is this particular bottle worth so much and who is likely to buy it? Also why hasn’t it been drunk already? With us to explain the answers to all of these questions is wine connoisseur and auctioneer Reese Warren. Hi Reece. Can you tell us a bit about the background of this bottle?

Reece Warren: [00:00:35] Well this bottle has come to me from a vendor obviously had it for a little while now. He did purchase it through the secondary market some time ago. So he is not the initial owner of the bottle. However since he’s had it, it’s been stored in a temperature-controlled environment. ‘45 is a legendary vintage. They quite often talk about post-war vintage as being very good ‘45 was great. ‘47 was another stellar vintage. So we’re very lucky to get this wine and it’s not the only ‘45 we actually have in the auction but it’s certainly probably the best ‘45 we have.

Jesse Mulligan: [00:01:14] What sort of person buys a bottle of wine from 1945?

Reece Warren: [00:01:20] A very wealthy person.

Jesse Mulligan: [00:01:21] Yeah, what’s the appeal? 

Reece Warren: [00:01:27] What’s the appeal? It’s just, it’s a legendary wine. And for us wine nerds I suppose, it is something that really is a benchmark, Château Latour is a benchmark wine anyway. ‘45 is as I say, one of those legendary vintages. So you know as time goes by, less and less of these wines become available as they get consumed over the years.

Jesse Mulligan: [00:01:52] Someone wants to know why no one’s drunk it yet.

Reece Warren: [00:01:58] This is a very good question. I must admit you know if I had this wine myself I would’ve drunk it. For a number of reasons I suppose, people do look at wine as a poor investment value. You know if you purchase this wine on release and you’re selling it now, you would do very well. However you know I must admit I don’t think wine is a great investment. I look at my wine cellar as being an investment in a good time. But you know some people do look at wine for business purposes. I very much look at wines for consuming to be perfectly honest.

Jesse Mulligan: [00:02:35] Can you be certain that the wine isn’t tainted in some ways? Not corked or other sort of problems.

Reece Warren: [00:02:43] Well you can never tell if it has got cork taint. That’s, you know regardless of whether the wine was 74 years old or whether it was seven days old, cork taint is something that you can’t tell within a bottle.

Jesse Mulligan: [00:02:56] Is that bad luck?

Reece Warren: [00:02:59] Well in the secondary market, it kind of is. However should this bottle be purchased and opened and there was a cork taint problem, I would certainly go back to the vendor and say hey look what can we do here? But the secondary market is very much as it’s aware. We make every effort we can to ensure the wines have been cellared correctly before we get them. We do turn down a lot of wines to be perfectly honest. That hasn’t been cellared correctly. So there are a few checks we can do. What they call the ullage level, which is the gap between the bottom of the cork and the top of the wine. Alcohol evaporates over time; so all wines with a bit of age on them do have what we call ullage. The ullage on this bottle is fairly good. So it is probably around mid to top shoulder. And it’s fair in a wine of this age.

Jesse Mulligan: [00:03:57] What’s likely to happen to the taste of wine and 74 years?

Reece Warren: [00:04:05] Again it’s a great question. I have been lucky enough to try wines from ‘47 and older. To be honest, old wines are for everyone. You know we talk about lovely fruit flavors that we get New Zealand wine. These wines, the fruit flavors have moved on a while ago.

Jesse Mulligan: [00:04:26] Long gone, fruit flavors are long gone.

Reece Warren: [00:04:30] Yes that’s right. So the wine is more vinous and more winey than say beautiful blackcurrant and raspberries kind of thing that you’d kind of expect from a cabernet dominated wine which is what Latour is.

Jesse Mulligan: [00:04:44] Now I’ve got some very specific wine questions that have come in and you can answer these if you want. Peter has got some dusty wines at home, under his stairs. He’s got a 1969 Château Tanunda Shiraz and a 1979 Château de Rolland Barsac and couple of Te Mata Coleraine and Awatea’s. Should he open them or should he just admire them in their dusty state.

Reece Warren: [00:05:11] You should always open them. To be perfectly honest you know wine is for enjoyment. You know Coleraine is doing incredibly well in the secondary market at the moment. In our last online auction we had some 98 Coleraine which is considered one of the best vintages. Hammer fall on these wines were around 250 dollars a bottle. I remember many years ago buying some 98 Coleraine in secondary market from wine auction company, cost me $45. So you know that’s probably 20 years ago. The value of that wine has gone up incredibly. As long as the wine’s being stored properly. You know this is one thing that I’ve talked about with a lot of my customers is, you know it’s pointless buying these great wines if you can’t cellar them properly.

Jesse Mulligan: [00:06:02] What do you reckon this 1945 bottle will reach at auction?

Reece Warren: [00:06:06] Well I also think it will go around reserve if it sells. It’s a very small market, wines like that. Basically because its value and as I mentioned earlier you know old wine is not for everyone. You know I do like old wine. Its first contact with the air will be a great level I supposed, to find out whether the wine is still sound. But should this wine has been cellared correctly throughout its life, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be. There’s a number of ‘45s available around the world at the moment, selling for up to about nine and half thousands New Zealand dollars.

Jesse Mulligan: [00:06:43] For someone wants to put a bid and where do they go Reece?

Reece Warren: [00:06:49] The Wine Auction Room. So www.wineauctionroom.com.

Jesse Mulligan: [00:06:54] Drops us a note and tell us what it goes for.

Reece Warren: [00:06:56] Yes I will do. I will do.

Jesse Mulligan: [00:07:02] Good. Nice to talk to you Reece Warren, wine connoisseur and auctioneer.