Joshua Latner, a Zurich-based Canadian, is a little bit hesitant about selling part of his personal wine collection at Christie's in London on Thursday. "It's really weird, but I am not really sure if anybody will want to buy my wines in the auction," he said.
It's difficult to understand his concern, because the 400 or so wine lots on offer represent some of the greatest bottlings of the last four decades. In all, the sale is expected to fetch about $825,000.
Latner, who comes from a wealthy Toronto family with interests in health care, real estate and casinos, is selling such rarities as a numbered magnum of 1961 Mouton-Rothschild -- No. 1 -- along with 12 bottles of 1961 Pitrus and a dozen bottles of 1934 Cheval-Blanc.
Among the top Bordeaux Latner is parting with are 1982 Mouton-Rothschild and La Mission-Haut-Brion, 1989 Le Pin, Pitrus and Haut-Brion, 1990 Latour, Lafite Rothschild and L'Evangile and 1995 Mouton-Rothschild and Valandraud. The consignment includes loads of Burgundies from Domaine Leroy, Comte Georges de Vog|i, Ponsot and Domaine de la Romanie-Conti.
Last night, Latner, 38, hosted a small, private dinner to celebrate the sale. Friends from all over the world flew in for the event at London's Lanesborough Hotel. Among the prominent guests were Canadian rocker Geddy Lee of Rush and Fridiric Engerer, director of Chbteau Latour.
The enthusiastic Latner selected some of the greatest wines of the 20th century to pour with a simple meal: 1961 Krug, 1900 Margaux, 1928 Haut-Brion, 1928 Latour, 1945 Mouton-Rothschild, 1947 Cheval-Blanc, 1953 Margaux, 1961 Latour, 1961 Pitrus (from magnum), 1974 Heitz Martha's Vineyard (from magnum), 1921 Yquem and 1927 Taylor Fladgate Port. Six of these wines were featured in Wine Spectator's Jan. 31, 1999, cover story, Wines of the Century.
All of the wines were sublime with the exception of the Pitrus, which was a fake; Latner knew from the beginning that it was bogus, but he served it with dinner as a "mystery wine," a fun test for the guests. The magnum of Pitrus was completely falsified, with a strange label, capsule and cork. It tasted like a wine with 20 or so years of age, but it was nothing in comparison to the greatness of the real thing.
The 1900 Margaux and 1947 Cheval-Blanc were the highlights of the evening. The Margaux was incredibly vibrant, with a solid ruby color and wonderful aromas of flowers, currants, leaves and minerals. It was medium-bodied, with polished tannins and a long, caressing finish. The Cheval was as it should be: a tight, powerful red, with lots of muscular tannins and ripe fruit. It is a wine that will live for another half a century.
"These were great wines, but I thought that they may have been slightly better tonight," Latner said after dinner, while puffing a Cuban Davidoff Chateau d'Yquem cigar -- an extremely rare and expensive smoke. "Old wines are a great thing. I love the romance of them. Every collector must experience great old wines or they are not really collectors."
Latner said that one of the reasons he is selling some of his collection through Christie's is that he wants to get rid of some of his modern wines, such as Bordeaux and Burgundies from the 1990 vintage. "These wines just don't talk to me like the great old wines," he said. "They don't have the soul or romance."
What money he makes from the sale on Thursday will be plowed back into wines, Latner said. "It's not about money for me," he explained. "I take wine very seriously, and I want to experience all the great wines of this century, as well as those that are lesser-known. In the end, a collector has to trust his own palate, and I want to taste as many old and interesting wines as possible."
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