His ear for a tune and eye for artwork have already helped Lord Lloyd Webber to become a multi-millionaire. Now his lesser-known nose for fine wine is set to add to his fortune.
The theatre impresario, who is the third richest musician in Britain, is selling part of his vast collection of wine, which is expected to fetch up to £2.6m next month.
The auction will take place at Sotheby's Hong Kong base on 22 January and follows a lucrative trend emerging in the Asian market, built around a flourishing interest in fine European wines.
Lloyd Webber has selected 748 bottles from the temperature-controlled wine cellars of his 16th century home at Sydmonton Court for the sale. The majority are French, including 21 cases of Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2005, 10 cases of Chateau Lafite 2005, 2 magnums of Domaine de la Romanee Conti – each at an estimated value of nearly £16,000.
Lloyd Webber is a notable art collector and dealer. Earlier this year, he sold Picasso's The Absinthe Drinker for £34.7m, making a £15.7m profit in the process.
The sale will not be the first to include vintages owned by Lloyd Webber. In 1997, he sold £5m of wine at Sotheby's, described by the auction house at the time as "undoubtedly the greatest single wine collection ever to appear at auction".
His collection overflows the cellars of his own home – he also stores cases in France. "His interest was first piqued as a teen by an aunt who had an extensive collection of Italian wine", said Serena Sutcliffe, Sotheby's international head of wine. "To have a name like this is great for us but, to be honest, the collection is so grand that it would not matter who was selling it," she said.
Lloyd Webber is tapping into the growing Hong Kong market, which has developed a booming industry in fine wines since abolishing expensive duties in 2008. Sotheby's Hong Kong has reported a four-fold increase in wine sales this year, with record sales of European wines exceeding £33m.
The theatre producer's collection includes particluarly fine bottles from Bordeaux, Champagne and Burgundy, she said, adding that it is a "gem of French wines".
If buyers want to avoid shelling out some of the more eye-watering asking prices, she would recommend some of the white wines from Burgundy, "which are relatively cheap, although they're still not going to be supermarket prices," she said.
Critic's Pick of his collection
By Chris Hirst
*Château Mouton Rothschild 2005 is a relative snip at an estimated £300-400. According to a tasting of seven 1986 Mouton Rothschild vintages, it "blew all its peers out of the water", but US wine guru Robert Parker describes the 2005 as "extremely backward". You'll have to wait until 2018 before it matures.
*At up to £2,750 per bottle, Chateau Petrus 2000 is a the perfect plutocratic gargle. While swirling the inky potion in his glass, the zillionaire owner might remark, "You know Robert Parker awarded it 100 points out of 100?"
*For a third of the price of Petrus, Château Haut Brion 1989 (£550-£833 per bottle) also scored 100 points on Parker's scale. His nose detected "scorched earth, graphite, toast, liquid minerals." You can drink it now.