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Billionaire with ‘more wine than could be drunk in a lifetime’ to sell 25,000 bottles worth $50M

<i>Courtesy Sotheby's</i><br/>The collection includes some of the
Courtesy Sotheby's
The collection includes some of the "most sought-after and iconic vintages" ever produced at the La Tâche vineyard

By Oscar Holland, CNN

(CNN) — Taiwanese billionaire Pierre Chen is auctioning off 25,000 bottles of wine from his vast collection, with some of the rarest items expected to fetch as much as $190,000 each.

Predicted to sell for up to $50 million, they form the largest and most expensive wine collection ever to be offered at auction, said Sotheby’s, which is organizing the five-part sale.

Chen’s wine knowledge puts him in a “league of his own,” said George Lacey, Head of Sotheby’s Wine for Asia in a statement, describing the collection as “staggering both in volume and range.” The auction house said the billionaire, who is founder and chair of electronics giant Yageo Corporation, had assembled the bottles over four decades.

“There is currently more wine in his cellars than any one individual could ever hope to drink in a lifetime, but wine is for drinking,” said Lacey.

While the auction house would not confirm the exact size of Chen’s collection, a spokesperson told CNN via email that the number of bottles in his cellars runs “well into six figures” — and those on sale represent only “a fraction” of his total holdings.

Forbes currently ranks Chen as Taiwan’s 10th — and the world’s 515th — richest person, with an estimated fortune of $5.5 billion. In a press release, Sotheby’s said he began collecting wines from Bordeaux in the 1970s, before expanding to the “then much-less-fashionable wines” from the Burgundy winemaking region.

Red burgundies, namely rare vintages from the storied La Tâche vineyard, account for the most valuable lots on offer. Among them are two “methuselahs” (a term for six-liter bottles) from 1985 valued at between $120,000 and $190,000 each. Another of the vineyard’s methuselahs from 1999, is expected to fetch $100,000 to $130,000, while a 1971 three-liter “jeroboam” (or double magnum) is valued at $110,000 to $140,000.

Elsewhere, a rare six-liter bottle of 1982 Château Pétrus, a Bourdeaux red described by Sotheby’s as having “legendary status amongst wine collectors,” is expected to fetch up to $65,000.

The sale also includes white burgundies and Champagnes by Dom Pérignon and Krug.

The five sales — collectively dubbed the “The Epicurean’s Atlas” — will take place over the course of a year, and each will focus on different regions and types of wine. The first takes place in Hong Kong this November, with sales also planned for Paris, New York, and Beaune, Burgundy.

Chen will also soon open his first restaurant, Le Restaurant Blanc in Paris, which he will supply with wines from his collection and serve as chief sommelier. The billionaire meanwhile continues to produce his own wine at the highly regarded Grand Cru Musigny vineyard, where he acquired a parcel of land in 2015.

The sales come less than five years after Chen auctioned off $15 million’s worth of wine, also through Sotheby’s. He is also a prominent art collector, and owns works by painters including Pablo Picasso, Gerhard Richter and Francis Bacon.

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