A vintage day as Clark's collection fetches £56,000

And as for something "lavishly ripe, full-bodied and [with] a voluptuous finish", the phrase could have come straight out of his scurrilous diaries.

In fact, these are descriptions of some of the fine wines once owned by the late Alan Clark - former Tory MP, womaniser, diarist and oenophile of considerable taste.

As befits a millionaire castle-owning Conservative, the wines he favoured were more traditional and classic than some of the women he pursued - once condemned by his wife as "below stairs". Indeed, the bottles on sale at Christie's yesterday were within the realms of the great claret vintages and dessert wines, including some of the most important wines of the post-war years.

Just over six years after his death, a selection from the wines he kept in the near-perfect, if slightly damp, conditions of the cellar of his home, Saltwood Castle in Kent, were put up for sale by his widow, Jane, realising a total of £56,000. Most were sold to anonymous buyers, mostly from abroad.

The most important lot was 12 bottles of a 1961 Chateau Palmer, one of the most renowned vintages from one of Bordeaux's leading estates, which was described in the catalogue by Robert Parker, the wine guru, as "a legend". It sold for £7,700.

The highest price was £8,250 for a case of 24 half bottles of the great dessert wine Chateau d'Yquem, from the 1967 vintage, described by the Christie's wine expert Michael Broadbent as "five stars".

Another case of 12 half bottles went for £4,180, while one single bottle went for more than £500. This was despite the fact that in some instances wine suffered from bin soiling, damaged labels and shrunken levels due to ageing.

Clark himself referred to the wine in the first instalment of his Diaries: "I had put the chairs out on the lawn, but drizzle started. I got a bottle of Yquem 67 on ice - the first this year. We sat in the red library. The Yquem did its work on an empty stomach and I sparkled."

The reference is one of many in Clark's three volumes of diaries to his liking for fine wines, among other sensual pleasures. He made many trips to France to buy wine from Bordeaux vineyards, bringing it back in the boot of his Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet - classic cars being another of his passions.

Clark's most famous association with drink was the occasion when, as a junior minister, he delivered a speech in the House of Commons somewhat the worse for wear after a good lunch. He was accused by Clare Short, the Labour MP, of being drunk, the only MP in modern times to be so labelled at the dispatch box.

Despite furious denials at the time, he later admitted that she was right. It was probably the Chateau Palmer.

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