Champagne of World War I for $6,400, Solaia at Bonhams

Pol Roger Champagne dating from the start of World War I and three bottles of Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1929 Bordeaux will be auctioned in London at a sale that includes Solaia wines from the Antinori family’s estates in Tuscany for collectors looking beyond famous French wines.

A bottle of Pol Roger 1914 Champagne, recently released from the estate’s cellars in Epernay, France, will be sold in aid of London’s Imperial War Museum Foundation in the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. It’s priced to fetch as much as 4,000 pounds ($6,400) at the Bonhams auction in London next week. The champagne harvest began that year 10 days after the French victory in the first Battle of the Marne, and grapes were picked amid the sound of gunfire.

Newer wines will also go under the hammer as collector and investor interest has turned more to labels outside the Bordeaux region, reflecting both price volatility in some of the old-established Medoc wines and an appetite for diversification.

Flagship Wine

Solaia has been a flagship wine since 1978 for the Antinori family, whose winemaking history stretches back to 1385. Solaia vintages spanning 15 years from the vineyard, part of the larger Tignanello estate, range from a double-magnum of the 1997 carrying a top estimate of 800 pounds to a six-liter bottle of the 2011 priced to fetch as much as 1,000 pounds.

“The market still remains pretty buoyant,” Richard Harvey, Bonhams director of wine, said in an interview this week. “The wines that are struggling are the wines where there’s a very large volume in the market, so that’s younger vintages of Bordeaux.”

Solaia blends 75 percent of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and 5 percent of Cabernet Franc more typical of Bordeaux with 20 percent of the Sangiovese varietal native to Italy.

The 2007 Solaia “impresses for its extraordinary finesse and balance,” Antonio Galloni wrote in a note in October 2010 on the website of U.S. wine critic Robert Parker. “Minerals, graphite and crushed rocks frame a long, seductive finish.” He scored it 97 on Parker’s 100-point system, putting it among the producer’s top wines of the past two decades.

“Solaia was born a bit by chance,” Marchese Piero Antinori, who runs the family company, said in London this week. “In 1978 we had for the first time an excess of production of cabernet, and so we tried to vinify a small part just separately, only cabernet. The result I must say was so exciting that we decided then to continue.”

Lafite Rothschild

Also at the auction on Oct. 24, a single bottle of Lafite 1929 is estimated at as much as 1,000 pounds, and a two-bottle lot of the same vintage at as much as 1,200 pounds, according to the Bonhams online catalog. Two bottles of Chateau Latour 1961 are on offer in separate lots, one priced to sell for as much as 2,200 pounds and the other 2,000 pounds.

“Bordeaux is always the staple of any wine auction” Harvey said, while “Solaia is one of a number of Tuscan wines that are particularly collectible.”