Poppin’ Bottles: What Does $72,244 of El Bulli’s Old Wine Taste Like?

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In 2011, the man who’s basically regarded as the Obi-Wan Kenobi of culinary arts, Ferran Adrià, shut down the modern mecca of restaurants, El Bulli, in spectacular fashion.

Over a year later, El Bulli’s started what might be the greatest if not most insane inventory sell-off in the history of modern restaurants: A Sotheby’s auction to benefit the El Bulli foundation, which includes the now-closed restaurant’s wine collection, along with a privately cooked dinner by Adrià himself. And the first part of that fire sale is now finished. The take?

Try $1.8 million on for size.

That sum includes:

  • Three bottles of Romanée Conti 1990 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti for $72,244 (Estimated sale: $32,500 – $47,500)
  • Four bottles of Romanée Conti 2003 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti for $69,103 (Estimated sale: $25,000 – $35,000)
  • Three bottles of Romanée Conti 2000 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti for $59,679 (Estimated sale: $16,000 – $22,500)

Yes, these guys…

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…Went for the kind of scratch that amounts to the 401K you will never, ever have. You pathetic peasant commoners may ask yourselves questions like: Are those bottles of fairy blood and uncut MDMA? What, exactly, merits paying five years of my rent for a bottle of Seventy-Two-Stack-Buck-Chuck? To which Sotheby’s may answer: You unsophisticated street urchin fuckwit! These bottles have more royalty in their corks than twelve generations of your linage will ever breathe, should you even have the privilege to sponge-bathe the perineum of anyone who will taste these wines. 

Or, in the words of the auction catalog:

The care lavished on Romanée-Conti is shown to all the wines of the Domaine, but the breed and refinement in the taste of Romanée-Conti would point to an indefinable “something extra” in this 1.80 ha plot. Tradition is respected (Romanée-Conti is always vinified in wooden vat number 17 which dates from 1862), but not blindly revered for its own sake. Short pruning, organic fertilizer, low yields, high average age of vines, late picking, selection of grapes, long fermentation with natural yeasts, 70-100% vin de presse added to give quality tannins and good acidity, new Tronçais oak barrels from wood the Domaine dries itself, almost no racking (and then only by gravity), fining with 3-4 egg whites per cask only in some years according to the character of the vintage, no filtration – all this is taken for granted. But Romanée-Conti is more than the total of a mass of intricate manoeuvres – it is the pure silk and intoxicating aromas and flavours that appear, as if by magic, from mere marl and limestone. [The 1990 is] a very great wine, the epitome of that Romanée Conti silkiness. The full aristocratic dimension of the wine is in full flower here, packed with concentration and fruit to the maximum degree. 

And yet, as we know well by now, all wine tastes mostly the same. So, uh, take that.

Also up for auction were:

  • A dinner for four with Ferran Adrià in Barcelona that went for $28,269
  • The elBulli Laguiole knife collection which went for $7,692
  • A signed Ferran Adrià chef jacket which went for $1,413

Those options seem like a downright bargain, considering you and three other people could take Ferran Adria’s old knives, stab the people who bought this wine, and have Ferran Adria cook their innards as you use his old jacket for tablecloths at, like, a third of the price. Not that we would endorse that kind of thing.

And the greatest going-out-of-business sale of all time isn’t even done yet. The second part of the auction goes down on April 26th, and if you want to, you can peer into this beautiful Sotheby’s catalogue and see what it’s like to go wine shopping with a budget that’s calculated in multiples of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP.

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