Christie’s, the auctioneer, has persuaded the celebrated elder statesman of football to part company with some of his vintage stock. It is conducting an auction of 5,000 bottles from his collection, in London and Hong Kong, and online, and expects to raise more than £3m.
Selling a Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Burgundy may prove as painful and gut-wrenching for Sir Alex as the decision in 2009 to sell Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid for £80m.
But as with football teams, so with wine cellars – they both need replenishing.
Sir Alex talks about wine in much the same way he used to talk about prized midfielders and strikers. “I’ve got Sassicaia, I’ve got the Pétrus and I’ve got Haut-Brions and Cheval Blancs,” he told Christie’s in an interview published on the auctioneer’s website.
The vintage Romanee-Conti 1999 coincided with the year Manchester United won the Champions League. “I think we deserved that,” he said, referring to the vintage, not the trophy.
He can expect up to £65,000 from the sale of six of that vintage, with a signed retro 1999 Champions League shirt thrown in.
Wine has had a bearing on his much chronicled and often stormy relationships with rival managers. Roberto Mancini, former manager of Manchester City “always brought a bottle of Sassicaia to the game”, said Sir Alex. “He knew his wines OK.”
Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger has some decent wines, he added, but Chelsea did not. After Sir Alex pointed it out, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich sent him a case of Tignanello.
As with his retirement from football last summer, the decision to part with some of his collection is all about timing.
“Taking an interest in wine allowed me to have an interest outside the game. You have to have an outside interest to distract you away from the intensity and the pressure you come under as a football manager,” he said.
“And all of a sudden, two or three years ago when I’m going through the portfolio, we realise this has got to be an amazing amount of wine. I retired last year and I thought this was a good time to sell it.”
Sir Alex Ferguson’s reason for selling off his extensive wine collection is not because he thinks the market is past its prime – but apparently because he wants to make room for some more bottles.
Freed from the constraints of the day job, he said that he now had “the opportunity to pursue this passion [for fine wines] through visiting the vineyards and meeting the winemakers” that he previously did not have time to do.
With this increased “freedom” in his diary to add to his collection, he added: “It made sense to release a large number of the wines I had collected over the years.”
Jancis Robinson, The Financial Times’s wine writer, said: “While the market for Bordeaux is not at its healthiest, there is extremely firm demand for top burgundies such as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.
“I’m sure, especially in Hong Kong, the Fergie imprimatur will be worth a sizeable premium. All this sounds like a skilful way of monetising Sir Alex’s enthusiasm for the grape,” she added.
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