A bottle of one of the world's rarest wines sold for $18,000 at a London auction Thursday. There's just one problem - it may be undrinkable.
The Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1945 went to a private collector in Europe, auction house Bonhams said. The selling price - which equals about $1,500 a glass and could cover a Learjet charter from London to Saint-Tropez - was at the low end of expectations because the bottle may have suffered from too much oxidation.
The ullage, an industry term which refers to the space between the wine and the bottom of the cork, was below the neck of the bottle, '' which points to an increased chance of the wine being oxidized and undrinkable,'' said Richard Harvey, Bonhams' global head of wine, in an interview before the sale. Had it been in better condition, the 70-year-old bottle, part of a vintage described by critic Michael Broadbent as the "Churchill of wine," could have fetched twice the 10,000-pound ($15,000) to 15,000-pound range Bonhams had estimated in its sale catalog.
Even spoiled, the claret is sought after for its historical value. The V on its label, designed by the French illustrator Philippe Jullian to celebrate the Allies' victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War, also represents triumph over difficult weather conditions for Bordeaux vineyards at the time, including heavy frost and a heatwave that led to a drought.
At 11,750 pounds, which includes a fee of 1,750 pounds to cover administrative costs, the bottle's price would cover the full tuition for a year at the London School of Economics. In its catalog, Bonhams says ullage levels increase with age but the house only auctions wines it considers to be in sound condition.
(Corrects second paragraph to say that only this bottle, not the vintage, may have been affected by oxidation.)