First the house, then the Bentley; now Lloyd-Webber empties the cellar

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The Independent Online
The composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber could be pounds 2m richer if thousands of bottles of wine from his collection sell at auction in London.

He has collected wine for decades and Sotheby's has 18,000 bottles from the cellars of his homes in England and France to sell on 20 May. Serena Sutcliffe, head of Sotheby's International Wine Department, called it "the greatest single wine collection ever to appear at auction ... it represents the wine-lover's dream cellar."

Every bottle fell into the category of being the world's most desirable wine, she said. Most of it is French, with a concentration on Burgundy and Bordeaux, as well as champagnes from Krug, Dom Perignon and Bollinger.

The sale includes 10 cases of Chateau Latour 1982 and 24 cases of Margaux 1982, 10 bottles of 1945 Chateau Lafite and six bottles of Chateau Margaux from 1900.

Collectors will pay huge prices for the correct vintage and records are frequently set.

Books and television programmes on wine have helped create a collectors' market.

In September, a bottle of Chateau d'Yquem 1865, a sweet white French wine, sold at Sotheby's for pounds 5,280.

Prices of the top clarets have rocketed in the past two or three years, but some experts say the boom may not continue for much longer.

The influence of various wine writers has helped push up the value of some wines and wealthy Far Eastern and Middle Eastern investors have come into the market in a big way recently.

One Far Eastern wine-lover spent a total of pounds 68,530 on bottles of a celebrated claret called Chateau Le Pin at Christie's in London in April. He was buying them to drink.

Experts warn: "Wine is not an advisable investment unless you are very clued up on the subject. If you don't know what you are doing, you can really come unstuck. It is very easy to get ripped off in the wine business."

Generally speaking, the older the wine, the higher the risk.