Former soccer boss Alex Ferguson waved goodbye to another set of famous reds yesterday, a year after retiring from Manchester United, as wines from his famous cellar went on sale in Hong Kong.
But the selling price hinted that Ferguson's nose for wine might not quite match his legendary acumen in the transfer market. While 89 per cent of the 257 lots found buyers, for a total of HK$29.3 million, auctioneer Christie's said most of the Burgundy and Bordeaux wines sold for prices in the middle of the estimated range.
The most eye-catching sale was a six-litre bottle, or methuselah, of 1997 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. It raised more than HK$1 million, for which the buyer also got a card signed by the fiery Scottish manager.
Like the rest of the 10 most expensive lots, it went to a mainland Chinese buyer, said David Elswood, Christie's head of wine. As at most Hong Kong auctions, the buyers were almost "totally Asian", with few Europeans to be seen, Elswood said.
Another high-profile lot was six bottles of 1999 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, which went for HK$900,000. It was offered along with a signed shirt of the kind United wore in that year's Champions League final, in which they completed an unprecedented "treble" after claiming the English Premier League and FA Cup.
Six bottles of the same wine without the shirt went for HK$100,000 less. Elswood said Domaine de la Romanee-Conti had been one of the hottest sellers at auctions in the past two years, and prices were now "near the top".
Several lots of 2000 Petrus, estimated to go for up to HK$550,000, went unsold. And 1996 and 1998 lots from the same Bordeaux chateau were sold for below the estimated price.
Elswood said Ferguson's fame had drawn a few new faces to the auction besides the veteran wine collectors. Still, most buyers were guided by the quality of wine rather than soccer when choosing the vintages, he added.
Ferguson will sell 140 more lots of wine in London next month, while 85 bottles will be offered in an online auction.
He has said he first developed an interest in fine wine during a scouting trip to France in 1991.