An auction of wines straight from the cellars of Masseto, the renowned single-vineyard Merlot from Bolgheri, brought in impressive numbers at Sotheby's. The grand sum of just over $400,000 was almost double the pre-auction estimate of $220,000. Topping the 46 lots was a 15-liter bottle of the 2010 vintage (one of only 20 nebuchadnezzars the winery produced that year), which fetched over $60,000, the highest auction price ever paid for a single bottle of Masseto. Other top lots included imperials (6-liter bottles) of the 2001 and 2016 vintages, which sold for over $16,000 each.
The auction was conducted online from April 12 to 27 and drew bidders from around the world. The sale marks the first time bottles have been auctioned directly from Masseto's caveau, the winery's cellar carved deep beneath the vineyard.
To emphasize the pristine provenance of the wines, all 132 bottles bore the words "Caveau April 2023" on the label and were equipped with Prooftag anti-counterfeiting devices. The bottles were also packaged in numbered oak boxes (handcrafted by artisan Francesco Villafrate in Bolgheri), complete with a certificate of origin signed by Axel Heinz, who joined as winemaker in 2005 and has been estate director since 2015.
Heinz, who is leaving Masseto to become CEO of Château Lascombes, reflected on the auction's significance. "Masseto has clearly established itself as one of Italy's blue-chip wines, but maybe its extraordinary capacity to improve with age is not yet fully appreciated," he told Wine Spectator. "We felt that it was the right time to show that the greatness of Masseto expresses itself with the appropriate bottle age."
The auction included seven vintages of Masseto, most of which received classic scores of 95 points or above: 1996, 2000, 2001, 2006, 2010, 2011 and 2016. Three vintages—2006, 2010 and 2011—were featured in the majority of the lots; 15 lots offered a bottle of each of those three vintages, 10 lots included two bottles of each vintage and three lots featured a magnum of each.
The remaining lots showcased large-format bottles, including double magnums, imperials and the top-selling nebuchadnezzar, across a span of vintages. Several lots included a private visit and tasting at the estate, and the nebuchadnezzar included an exclusive lunch and tasting for six.
The results confirm Masseto's place in the upper echelon of fine wines. Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson has described Masseto as "Italy's greatest Merlot and one of the world's greatest wines," and collectors seem to agree.
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