Beer, Wine & Spirits

William Koch's wine collection headed to auction

Koch's wine cellar
Koch's wine cellar

William Koch, billionaire, energy mogul and political activist, is a huge wine aficionado. Now, part of his extensive wine collection is set to hit the market. Buyers should be prepared to have deeop pockets, because some of these bottles will sell well into the seven figures.

Auction house Sotheby's is planning to sell 20,000 bottles of wine from Koch's private cellar of William Koch, one of the richest men in America. The entire collection, encompassing 2,700 lots and 20,000 bottles, could bring in a total of $10 to $15 million dollars when they hit the auction block this May.

Koch, 78, is founder of Oxbow Carbon, a petroleum and oil refiner. He is also a well known philanthropist, art collector, yachtsman and conservative activist with an estimated net worth of approximately $3.6 billion dollars.

In describing the Sotheby's sale, Koch explained that his collection that was forty years in the making.

"I aimed to assemble the very best Bordeaux and Burgundy where you could taste the love and the passion that the vintner had in making it," he said. "With around 43,000 bottles, I could not possibly consume everything in my cellar so I am delighted to offer this selection to allow collectors all over the world to enjoy the glorious moments that come with these wines."

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Some wealthy individuals and collectors see wine as an investment that's as valuable as a luxury car or a painting. Silicon Valley Bank said in a recent report that fine wine sales are expected to rise by at least 9 percent globally this year, even as overall U.s. wine consumption is expected to dip for the first time in 20 years. In 2014, fine wine sales alone accounted for more than $350 million in global sales, according to a report in the Wine Spectator.

Connor Kriegel, head of wine auction sales at Sotheby's, told CNBC that the upcoming sale is a "once in a lifetime opportunity" for the public. According to Kriegel, whether you are a novice, a serious private collector or a top restaurant, the breadth and depth of the collection offers something for everyone.

"It's so rare to get a crack at a spectacular wine cellar like Mr. Koch's," said Kriegel. "What sets this wide-ranging collection apart, aside from the obvious provenance, is the quality, quantity and impeccable storage. Each bottle is in exceptional condition."

For instance, one single Jeroboam of 1959 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Burgundy could sell for between $30,000 to $42,000. Meanwhile, a six-liter Methuselah of Romanee-Conti 1989 DRC Burgundy could fetch $70,000 to $100,000 dollars.

Another standout is Koch's collection of 1953 Château Lafite Rothschild lots. The six lots, each containing six magnums, have a pre-sale estimate between $24,000 to $34,000 dollars apiece.

"The majority of these vintages from the last century never come to market. Ever. So to have access at these first growth, large format magnums is just astounding," said Kriegel. "I expect these lots will draw a hugely international crowd and bidding to be especially fierce."

Selections from the wine cellar of William I. Koch.
Source: Sotheby's

Adrien Falcon, wine director at Bouley and Brushstroke, a two Michelin-ranked restaurant in New York City, told CNBC that the sale is exceptional due to its "perfect" provenance.

"Mr. Koch's collection is without peer. He spent decades and tens of millions of his own money to clean up the rare wine business and expose counterfeit wine sales," Falkcon said. "Any bottle from his collection is literally the best of the best in the world."

Despite Koch's controversial role in U.S. politics — liberal activists and politicos often sneer at the very mention of the Koch name — the auction is expected to draw heavy interest.

"Even if you don't like his family's politics, Koch's name alone on the wine list, is enough to entice the most discriminating buyer," Falcon said. The

"These days it is not enough to mention the condition of the bottle or the taste, serious wine drinkers want to know all about its legacy, before dropping $15,000 or $20,000 on a single bottle," said Falcon.

The auction of William I. Koch's wine cellar will take place on May 19 to 21, 2016, in New York.