The Winelover & The Collection
Wine collectors are a unique bunch on the whole, at least to those who do not understand the joys of wine in its many guises. Fine wine, in particular, requires a passion, a knowledge and – at least in the case of those listed below – a large bank account.
For some it is simply a pleasure to drink, for others an investment, and, in many cases, the very lifeblood of a culture.
Gene Mulvihill, The Prolific
A good place to start would be the man with possibly the largest collection of all. Gene Mulvihill, a restaurant owner in New Jersey, can use the excuse, if one was required, that his collection is inspired to give his customers the best selection of wines possible, although it is highly doubtful he runs the risk of running out. Wines include hundreds of vintages from Bordeaux Chateau Latour (mid-19th century to the present day) and customers are presented with multiple wine binders, instead of the usual wine list.
How many bottles does the collection include in total? Well, that is something of a debate… but he is thought to own up to 150,000 bottles, proving that quantity does not necessarily take away from quality. These wines range from Bordeaux and Burgundy to even the finest ports. Mulvihill sadly passed away in October of 2012 aged 78.
Hardy Rodenstock, The Extravagant
Collector, connoisseur and trader, Hardy Rodenstock has been at the forefront of these aspects of wine culture for many decades. One thing is for sure, he is no stranger to the press, once holding a vertical tasting of hundreds of vintages from Chateau d’Yquem, Bordeaux. These vintages ranged from the late 18th century to the late 20th. If this wasn’t extravagant enough, he once sold a bottle of Chateau Lafite for an estimated $156,000.
The reason the bottle sold for such a high price, other than its age and label? It was once owned by premier wine collector of his day Thomas Jefferson, the former American president. Or so he claims. The history of this bottle is shrouded in controversy, becoming the subject of a book, The Billionaire’s Vinegar. Not many wine collectors can boast such fame, or perhaps infamy. Rodenstock passed away in May 2018, aged 76.
Sir Alex Ferguson, The Winner
Football in the UK is rather better known for its Champagne than its love of wine. Pictures of George Best sharing a bottle of the expensive bubbly, for example, are as ubiquitous as footage of the player’s mercurial skills. But with the influence of foreign players and managers, chiefly European, wine has become something of a movement within the game, particularly with managers, and this is the case for former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, 77. It was during a scouting trip to France that Sir Alex discovered the joys of the grape, leading to something of an obsession, which he informs us gave him a passion away from the pitch that helped balance his life.
That is not to say that he didn’t combine the two. He was known to regularly invite managers to share a bottle with him after the game, although rivals were not always grateful. Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho complained about its quality, while Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger simply replied that he wasn’t thirsty. Although Ferguson is somewhat coy about the size of the collection, it is thought that it amounts to the several thousands, with Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, Sassicaia and Petrus declared among his favourites.
Robert Rosania, The Billionaire
A list of collectors without mentioning Champagne would feel like it is missing something, as would any such list not including the name Robert Rosania. Few careers are likely to gain the wealth provided to real estate investors in New York, and only those with such wealth are likely to be able to afford the collection that Rosania has. What is particularly astonishing is that he only began collecting 15 years ago, in which time he has amassed a collection that is whispered about as containing tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of bottles.
At one point, 1,000 bottles were sold that included the labels, Dom Perignon, Bollinger and Taittinger. In other words, this is not your run of the mill collection. Quite how much it is worth in its entirety is not known, but if you are a billionaire, you do not have to worry too much about breaking the bank.
Michel-Jack Chasseuil, The Passionate
And then there is the case of Michel-Jack Chasseuil, 74. No man in the history of wine collecting has shown such commitment to the cause as he. The story hardly needs the traumatic event that had his name in the headlines in 2014, but it certainly paints the full picture of a man with a true passion. Chasseuil’s collection is said to be made up of around 40,000 bottles, all of which are of the very highest quality from Burgundy to Bordeaux. He keeps this astounding assemblage in a subterranean cave in Western France, which can only be reached through a long tunnel and heavily armoured doors.
The reason for this? In 2014 his home was broken into by masked men, seeking to gain access to the treasures of the collection, which are, after all, worth many millions of Euros. Despite being threatened at the point of a gun, Chasseuil refused to give them access, leading to the gang escaping with just a few cases of table wine. This collection is not an investment so much as a museum to France’s very identity in his eyes, something he has spent over 50 years amassing. A belief that he was willing to lose his life over to protect. While the others on the list are truly passionate, few would lay their life on the line.
The Passion of the Collector
Far more than just a collection of drinks that can be enjoyed from time to time with a meal, wine collectors are a passionate and driven bunch, always seeking a new experience while enthusing about the merits of previous discoveries. Very few have the finances to acquire the kind of collections listed above, but that isn’t to say that if we wouldn’t if we could. Some might react to those collectors above with confusion, but those of us with a passion for the grape have an admiration, albeit one infused with jealousy.
If you have any suggestions on which collectors we should add to our list, feel free to send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org: our team will be happy to update our list and add a new story,