Visionary Catalonian chef Ferran Adria helped usher in the current era of experimental cuisine known as "molecular gastronomy" at elBulli, his restaurant boasting three Michelin stars on Spain's Costa Brava. Having closed elBulli last year, Adria now plans to put his fabled wine cellar up for auction at Sotheby's. The entire collection – more than 8,000 bottles – will go on the block for a total estimated value of $1.1 to $1.7 million.
The catalog for the two auctions, which will take place next Spring in New York and Hong Kong, already has master sommeliers like Roger Dagorn, of Tocqueville, in New York, "drooling."
Standout lots include five rare vintages of Romanee Conti, including three bottles of the 1990 vintage. Each bottle has an estimated value of $47,000. Last year, a case of 1990 Romanee-Conti sold to a Chinese collector for $297,400, a world record.
Other notable lots are 100 bottles and six different vintages of the iconic Vega Sicilia "Unico" from 1987, and 157 bottles of Pingus, a cult winery in Ribera de lDuero, planted with old vines of Spain's signature "noble" grape, Tinto Fino. One of the Pingus bottles, the Artadi Rioja Gandes Anadas '01, Sotheby's describes as "the "Rolls Royce" of Spanish vintages.
For his part, Dagorn has his eye on a bottle of Chateau de Beaucastel Blanc, which, he says, "I would pair with an angel hair pasta with uni."
There are affordable lots in the sale as well. A dozen bottles of Domaine de la Grange de Peres Rouge 2001 are expected to go for $600 to $800, while 12 bottles of Les Laquets Cahors 2000 are estimated at $200-$300.
The association with Adria and the closing of elBulli mean that any successful bidder will walk away with a status symbol and conversation piece as much as a highly drinkable bottle. "Sotheby's has held wine auctions of much higher value," said Serena Sutcliffe, head of Sotheby's international wine department, "but in terms of excitement about a collection, this one is definitely having wider ripples around the world."