He turned off the last sous-vide machine back in June 2011, but Ferran Adria's restaurant el Bulli will be making one final sale next April: the contents of its wine cellar. Sotheby's has been entrusted with the task of selling the cellar at the restaurant which was five times named "best in the world" by Restaurant magazine.
The list is 8,807-bottles strong and includes Chateau Latour 2005 and three bottles of Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1990, estimate £30,000. The sale is likely to raise £620,000 for Adria's experimental cookery institute, the el Bulli Foundation.
It is undoubtedly a good time to be a restaurateur in possession of a collection of ultra-fine wine. The cellar at Charlie Trotter's in Chicago, which once housed bottles of 1870 Lafite, 1945 Latour à Pomerol, and 1907 Heidsieck champagne salvaged from a Baltic shipwreck, is currently on sale at Christie's. The sale has five days yet to run and it has already streaked past its £620,000 estimate.
In the Old World, sums have been even fatter. An 18,000-bottle clean out at Parisian restaurant La Tour d'Argent in 2009 raised £1.37m in 2009. Diners need not be concerned, however: the restaurant, has another 430,000 bottles beneath the Left Bank.
A similar purge happened in the early 1960s when Robert Maxwell, then a Labour MP, auctioned the Houses of Parliament's vast cellar. The chairman of the house's catering committee pursued the destruction of the century-old cellar with the same industry he would later show in plundering pensions. Members of Parliament, staff, and journalists no longer enjoy the privilege of Latour at 6s (30p) a glass.
Of course La Tour d'Argent and the Palace of Westminster had a head start. Starting from scratch today takes self-assurance bordering on the psychopathic, prices having shot up since the 1970s.
"Any serious wine list takes time, patience and commitment. It's nearly impossible to do overnight. It's even more difficult nowadays due to the huge capital outlay required, as the most sought after wines have become so arduous," says Marlon Abela, owner of Michelin-starred The Greenhouse. Still, as arduous as it is, for any restaurateur the rule remains the same: pay pennies now and get pounds later.
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