Food icon Charlie Trotter puts 'large format' wine collection up for auction

Chicago food icon Charlie Trotter puts his US$1m 'large format' collection up for auction

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2012, 4:10am

Charlie Trotter, whose eponymous restaurant was synonymous with fine dining in Chicago, is auctioning off his million-dollar wine cellar, which is known for the size of its bottles as much as for what's in them.

The 4,000-plus bottle collection, which Christie's will auction in New York, has a significant number of so-called large formats. Some bottles are so large they require cradles and cranks to decant.

Most wines come in bottles that hold 750 millilitres. A magnum, a common size for champagnes and sparkling wines, holds 1.5 litres, or two standard bottles. And Trotter's collection certainly has a good number of magnums of Krug and Dom Perignon.

But the large number of large formats - the double-magnums (four bottles in one) of famed Bordeaux Chateau Haut-Brion Blanc '94, or imperials (eight bottles) of Chateau Latour, Chateau Lafite-Rothschild and Chateau Mouton-Rothschild and the gargantuan nebuchadnezzars (15 litres or 20 bottles) of Chateau Pichon-Longueville and Chateau Lynch-Bages - is what distinguishes this sale.

Collectors seek out large-format bottles in part because they enhance the ageing potential of the wine, and also because they are rare.

"The 15-litre bottle of Kracher - now that is a one off. Gerhard Kracher gave that to Mr Trotter as a thank you gift," said Per Holmberg, head of wine at Christie's in New York. He was referring to a nebuchadnezzar filled with Kracher Trockenbeerenauslese 2005, an Austrian dessert wine that has elements of molasses and marmalade and usually is served from a half-bottle, which holds 375ml.

The giant bottles generally require their own cradles and cranks to properly decant.

Trotter, 52, won every major US culinary award for his innovative cuisine, and the restaurant boasted a wine list with more than 1,800 selections from around the world.

After 25 years in the business, he closed the restaurant in August to pursue a graduate degree in philosophy.

Christie's is auctioning off Trotter's cellar in two sessions, one live in New York on November 16 with the intention to attract many of its clients who will already be in town for the US$1 billion worth of art that is being sold at auction this month.

The other Trotter sale is online and runs from November 20 to December 4.