Legendary soccer boss Alex Ferguson used to take his mind off the pressure of the "beautiful game" by building up a collection of wines almost as impressive as the collection of trophies he won at Manchester United.
Now, about 5,000 bottles of wine - red, of course - from Ferguson's cellar are to be sold off along with signed memorabilia in Hong Kong. Auction house Christie's announced the sale, with an estimated value of HK$39 million, yesterday.
One star lot will be six bottles of Romanee-Conti Grand Cru 1999, which are offered with a Manchester United Champions League shirt from 1999 signed "Best wishes, Alex Ferguson". It has a maximum estimated value of HK$850,000.
Ferguson said he wanted to auction some of his collection in Hong Kong as "Asia is a part of the world that holds great affection for Manchester United". He was always amazed by the level of support and reaction that accompanied his team's visits.
"It is more than just an association, it is a romance dating back many years," he said.
Some 75 per cent of the cellar is made up of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, a French Burgundy which Christie's international director of wine David Elswood says "is probably the wine in vogue, the wine of the moment in terms of demand. So hopefully that's going to draw the attention of not just Alex Ferguson fans but wine fans, too."
The cellar spans every year of Ferguson's career with United from 1986 until he retired last year. It includes lots from 1999, the year United won an unprecedented treble of the English Premier League, the Champions League and the FA Cup.
"People keep saying, 'What was the best moment of your life as a manager?' and '99 is without question," Ferguson told Elswood in an interview. "There was always this thing about my career that I never had won the Champions League, so to win it in the way we did win it was absolutely fantastically special. And it coincided with a vintage; you were talking about Romanee-Conti '99, a really special year. I think we deserved that."
After the Hong Kong sale on May 24, further sales of Ferguson's wine will take place in London and online.
Hong Kong is one of the world's biggest centres for wine sales, helped by a favourable tax regime and mainland demand. Twelve bottles of French Burgundy sold for a world record HK$3.67 million at a Christie's auction in Wan Chai last year.