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Dom Pérignon--Vintage 1921
Christie's is selling all lots in this sale as age… Read more
Dom Pérignon--Vintage 1921

2 bottles per lot
Details
The Extraordinary Private Cellar of Doris Duke

The private cellar of Doris Duke is without question one of the most superlative collections of Fine and Rare Wines to come to market in the nearly forty years of dedicated Fine Wine auctions at Christie's. This sale ranks as the most unique offering of pre-war vintages ever sold in North America; both in its impeccable provenance and its depth of some of the best wines of the twentieth century.

The cellar highlights a period of wine-making and vintages whose like will never be repeated and is a true "time capsule" of bottlings spanning 1904 to 1934 and encompassing the great châteaux and domaines of France from Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne as well as ports and madeiras.

The quantities here speak to an era of grand entertaining long-since passed, the vintages to yields and wine-making techniques changed by technological advancement and in one case to a vineyard now included in another by the appelation controlée laws.

Not only are the wines themselves remarkable, but the quality of the archival material associated with them is equally astonishing. No collection of this era can have been so meticulously catalogued by its owners, so that today's collector can be assured of the provenance. Researching this collection has brought this cellar to life; tracing the wine's journey from initial invoices (in old French francs) and shipping dockets, through cellar inventories, entertaining records and through to NYWinesChristie's recent cataloguing and inspection.

The cellar set out in these pages may represent only a third of its initial magnitude.

It was with great pleasure that I along with my colleagues from Christie's in New York and NYWines spent memorable days cataloguing this historic collection of wines. It is truly a "once in a lifetime" experience to see such quantities of Romanée Conti 1934, La Mission Haut Brion 1929 and Yquem 1929, amongst many others, in one place. It is incredible to see such wines as Les Gaudichots 1929 from DRC and Armand Rousseau's 1934 Chambertin at all, let alone in the quantities represented here. It is difficult to draw out highlights from this collection, one so full of exciting wines and true rarities.

Each of the wines has been researched allowing us to include vintage notes and history of the châteaux and domaines.

The wines in this collection were removed from two of Miss Duke's former homes; at Duke Farms in Somerville, New Jersey and Shangri La, Honolulu, Hawaii.


Duke Farms

Built by James Buchanan Duke, Doris Duke's father at the turn of the twentieth century, the estate amounts to some 2700 acres and is amongst the state's largest privately owned estates.

The cellar in the basement of the original part of the main house was originally designed as a meat-locker with sealed door and was converted into the wine cellar during the 1930s. It is understood that refrigeration was installed during the second half of the 1930s.

The majority of the wines in this collection were removed from the cellar at Duke Farms which had a temperature of between 55-57 degrees during our visit.

Many of the bottles bear slip labels from Bellows and Company, one of America's foremost importers and wine merchants since 1830. Indeed it was Frederick S. Wildman a Connecticut-born wine connoisseur, who bought the century-old Bellows and Co., in 1934 following the repeal of Prohibition. The company now bears his name.



Shangri La

The Honolulu home of Doris Duke was commissioned by her and built from 1936 to 1938 on a five-acre waterfront property in an Islamic style.

The cellar was part of the original house and it is believed that refrigeration was installed at the outset, witnessed by the presence of the original compressor (now unused) at the property.

Christie's staff removed the wines from this cellar in 2001 at which time notes were made regarding the conditions of the cellar. The cellar temperature was recorded at between 53 and 55 degrees during the cataloguing and whilst humidity could not be accurately determined, local climate would suggest relatively high humidity.

Many of the bottles have slip labels from the "Island Wine Company, Territory of Hawaii" and appear to have been shipped directly there.

Wines that were removed from Miss Duke's Hawaii home, Shangri La have been indicated in the catalogue.


The conditions of the bottles in this collection have been carefully detailed for each lot and in many cases are exceptional for age. The colour of all wines is extremely healthy and the levels are in all instances usual for age in most cases excellent.


As a seal of provenance each bottle will bear a back label stating that it was consigned from the Private Collection of Doris Duke and sold at NYWinesChristie's.

The exceptional wines in this collection are matched only by their impeccable provenance.



Richard Brierley
Head of North American Wine Sales
March 2004


THE EXTRAORDINARY PRIVSTE CELLAR OF DORIS DUKE
AN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVER
Some thoughts from Michael Broadbent, MW.

The Extraordinary Cellar of Doris Duke will go down in the annals of Christie's as one of the great 'pristine' cellars. By 'pristine', I mean a cellar or collection of wines which have never moved since originally purchased and laid down, remaining correctly binned , in ideal temperature and humidity conditions, untouched until removal to Christie's for sale.

Since the inauguration of the new wine department in 1966, Christie's have had the privilege of handling some - most - of the great private cellars, almost invariably being sold by the elderly grandsons of the gentleman who had originally purchased the wine.

One of the most renowned was that of Glamis Castle, wines purchased by the 13th Earl of Strathmore and binned in the mid 1870s. The contents of the cellar were sold by the present Queen's cousin in 1971. The list goes on: in 1969 from the three great estates of the Duke of Buccleuch; the amazing cellar uncovered by Sir William Gladstone when he inherited the Fasque estate - the cellar had been padlocked and never opened since the 3rd baronet died in 1927; dozens of bottles of 1865 Lafite and other rare wines from Sir George Mayrick's two great houses, sold in 1970.

The earliest and probably the finest of all, the unprecedented range of pre-phylloxera Lafite from the cellars of the Earl of Roseberry sold at Christie's first "Finest and Rarest" sale in May 1967.

Pristine. Unmoved. Doris Duke's cellar is in the same league.

A chance to taste history

A remarkable pre-sale tasting of selected wines from Doris Duke's cellar was held at Christie's in London on February 14th. Senior Christie's staff were assembled to judge the quality and condition of the wines sent over well in advance to give plenty of time to settle. Richard Brierley had flown over specially from New York; he was joined by David Elswood, Anthony Hanson MW and myself.

All of us were impressed by the good levels for their age and overall condition.

Anthony's and my brief tasting notes made on the spot follow. My summary: all the old vintages were correct, in the sense that they were in the best possible condition for their age and vintage, commensurate with 'pristine cellar conditions'.

Michael Broadbent, MW.
Senior Consultant and Director of Christie's London
March 2004
DOM PERIGNON--VINTAGE 1921

This collection opens with a remarkable cache of Dom Pérignon 1921 - the first vintage of the prestige cuvée from Moët et Chandon; although the story of this wine is somewhat special...

In 1935 Moët were asked to supply a special bottling for their British importers; Simon Bros. and Co. to celebrate the London firm's centenary. The Epernay house provided 300 specially commissioned, heavy bottomed bottles with a shield-shaped label which bore the inscription "Champagne especially shipped for Simon Bros. and Co's Centenary 1835-1935." The bottles were sent to the importer's 150 best customers - the vintage inside the 1926.

Word of this luxury cuvée soon spread amongst affluent American society, revelling in the post-prohibition era, and there was great demand for such a Champagne. In response to requests, 100 cases were shipped to New York in November 1936, this time using the finer and more mature 1921 vintage. Not being able to use the same inscription on the label as used the previous year in London, Moët decided to name this cuvée Dom Pérignon after Champagne's founding father.

The 1921 vintage, and subsequent vintages up to 1943, underwent secondary fermentation in a regular bottle then being transvasaged into the custom made bottles that we still know today for Dom Pérignon.

Of the 100 cases shipped to New York, Doris Duke is believed to have secured approx 100 bottles according to cellar records, seventeen of the remaining are presented here.

Anticipation and perhaps a little concern filled the room as, in the presence of Richard Geoffroy, Chef de Cave at Moët et Chandon for Dom Pérignon, I chiselled away at the short blue-green wax that surrounded the cork and retaining cage. How would this great Champagne have evolved after nearly 70 years on the second cork after disgorging?

After a while, string emerged along with the twisted metal cage, as at this period the corks were tied down by skilled craftsmen using string. Wire cutters were called for to break free the wire cage and then with excitement I lifted the bottle to my ear as I prised the cork from its bottle. A low hiss of Carbon Dioxide slowly escaped the bottle - what great news - the seal was still good.

The first pour went to M. Geoffroy of course, the minute bubbles of a slight "pétillance" remained suspended in the wine - the color invited one into the glass.

M. Geoffroy has kindly allowed us to print his own impressions below, it was a first for him and for all present, a very memorable moment.

The cork, bearing both the vintage and "Dom Pérignon" was saved for M. Geoffroy as a momento of a very special trip to London.


Richard Brierley

Dom Pérignon--Vintage 1921
Epernay
All levels are indicated below a short wax seal.
Lot 2001-2002 levels: 3cm and 6cm. Lot 2003 levels: 4.5cm and 6cm. Lot 2004 levels: 4.5cm and 6cm. Lot 2005 levels: 5 cm and 6cm. Lot 2006 levels: 5cm and 6.5cm. Lot 2007 levels: 5.5cm and 6.5cm. Lot 2008 levels: 7cm and two 7.5cm
Parcel: lots 2001-2002
Tasting notes from a representative bottle from this cellar:
"1921, a mythical vintage for the first commercial release of Dom Pérignon. The tiny crop (due to a severe spring frost), after exposure to a long, hot summer, made one of the greatest vintages ever. Exceptionally pale for its age, the wine showcases an intriguing bouquet of toasted sndalwood, vanilla, honey, praline and marzipan. One the palate, one is struck by the life, the energy and the backbone. It remains focused, with a lacy texture. A key feature is the tremendous persistence of dry nutty flavors. Overall, a model of balance and concentration."
Richard Geoffroy, February 2004
The surprise of the tasting. In England we love old champagne but this is in a class of its own. Great vintage, small production. Doisgorged in 1936, and with iots original cork. Remarkably pale for its age, a hint of straw and just a hint of its former sparkle; glorious depp and rich, fresh walnuts bouquet; delicious flavour, sweeter than expected, with excellent length and life - sustaining acidity. No longer effervescent but with a subtle prickle of carbon dioxide giving the finish its final flourish. MB
2 bottles per lot
Special Notice

Christie's is selling all lots in this sale as agent for an organization which holds a State of New York Exempt Organization certificate. Seller explicitly reserves all trademark and trade name rights and rights of privacy and publicity in the name and image of Doris Duke. No buyer of any property in this sale will acquire any right to use the Doris Duke name or image. Seller further explicitly reserves all copyright rights in designs or other copyrightable works included in the property offered for sale. No buyer of any property in the sale will acquire the rights to reproduce, distribute copies of, or prepare derivative works of such designs or copyrightable works.
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