David Elswood, Deputy Chairman of Wine, on a favourite bottle among many outstanding treasures in the Avery Family Cellar sale in London in October
‘During the spring and summer of 2016 the wine team spent a total of six weeks in the Avery family cellar, selecting, checking and cataloguing, then carefully packing more than 8,000 rare and unique bottles destined for the October auction,’ recalls Deputy Chairman of Wine, David Elswood.
The Bristol wine merchants have been in business for more than 220 years, and the family’s incredible private collection included such treasures as Château Lafite-Rothschild 1897; Pétrus 1961, hailed by Jay McInerney in The Wall Street Journal as the best wine he has ever tasted; Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Romanée-Conti 1969, one of the rarest and most fabulous burgundies of the last century; and Château Mouton-Rothschild 1945, considered by some to be the greatest wine ever to come out of Bordeaux.
For many wine lovers, the experience would have been overwhelming. Elswood, however, is able to single out one wine in particular that he was especially thrilled to encounter — a 1947 Pétrus. After a tasting in 2004, Michael Broadbent, founder of the Christie’s Wine department, described it as ‘Unsurprisingly magnificent. Fabulous: deep, rich, rounded, more than faultless, and impregnable.’
‘Back in the 1950s when the 1947 came to rest in the cellar, Pétrus was just a small and fairly unknown château from a region unfamiliar to many — Pomerol,’ says Elswood. ‘In fact, they don’t even have a château in Pétrus, just a collection of modest farm buildings on either side of a rural single-track road.
‘We offered 20 vintages of their sought-after production in the Avery sale, with the 1947 being the oldest,’ he continues. ‘As I carefully packed that precious single bottle, it brought to mind the one occasion in 2010 when I had the chance to actually taste the fabled wine, the result of an early post-war summer of unprecedented tropical heat in Europe.
‘My note reads, “Crumbly cork, hard to extract, deep-coloured and impressive in the glass, exotic aroma, rich and full of ripeness and spicy overtones, powerful and tannic flavour with finish of amazing depth and intensity.” It is fascinating how the recollection of a taste can linger so long in the memory.’
The sale of wines from the Avery family cellar, described by Michael Broadbent as ‘One of the finest and most comprehensive collections of old and rare wine to ever appear at auction’, stretched to 11 hours over three sessions, and featured 900 lots. Lot 106, a single bottle of Pétrus 1947, had an estimate of £2,000-3,000, but fetched a remarkable £7,638.