On 26th July 2011, a new Guinness World Record was set for the most valuable bottle of white wine ever sold.
On Christian Vanneque – Purchaser of the World Record 1811 Château d'YquemWho is Christian Vanneque? »
Who is Christian Vanneque?
Born in 1949 in Paris, France, Christian was raised from birth in the circus after his mother, who was a debutante ballerina in the corps de ballet of the Strasbourg Opera, left the ballet to marry and follow Christian's father who, at the time was a trumpet player and conductor of the only French circus at the time, the Radio Circus.
After ten years of circus life and the divorce of his parents, Christian grew up with his grandparents, who owned a famous Country Inn near Nancy, France, L'Hostellerie de la Côte Noiriel, which was the only 3 Michelin-Fork (not star) in the region at the time. This is where the young Vanneque, while studying at school, began to develop an 'appetite' for the restaurant and hotel business at a very early age.
In 1967, at the age of 18, his grandparents thought it was time for Christian to hone his skills outside the family business so that he might, someday, take over. That is when an incredible set of circumstances and opportunities arose: an opening as wine cellar assistant at 3 Michelin-Star restaurant La Tour d'Argent in Paris. Vanneque proved to be a gifted student apparently, as just three years later, in 1970, when the oldest head sommelier of France, 72-year old Marcel Besson, retired, Christian was asked by owner Claude Terrail to take Mr. Besson's place as head sommelier for La Tour d'Argent. At the age of 20, Christian became the youngest head sommelier in France. For ten years, he was responsible for the largest restaurant wine cellar in the world, heading a team of fourteen sommeliers and cellar assistants.
Over the years, Christian was the recipient of numerous awards and honours and was regularly consulted by politicians, movie stars and business personalities from all over the world to help them build their personal wine cellars. "I have a particular found memory of finding old vintages of Bordeaux wines and Ports for the late Charlie Chaplin for his home in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland. He loved great Pauillac wines and vintage Ports. His health was already frail at that time (he died in December 1977) and spoke softly, but I will always remember this incredible twinkle in his eyes and his disarming smile", Vanneque said. La Tour d'Argent was Christian's classic schooling for the 'Art of Living' and an amazing learning platform for his wine knowledge. It was a priceless and humbling experience that would serve Christian for the rest of his career.
In 1977, Christian became a professor and consultant at Steven Spurrier's L'Académie du Vin in Paris. Later, Christian was one of the judges at the historic May 24, 1976 Paris Wine Tasting, organized by Steven Spurrier and thereafter referred as: 'The Judgment of Paris' - a blind tasting where nine French judges shocked the industry by choosing unknown California wines over France's best - which had a lasting and revolutionary impact on the world of wine. He also participated in the 'Wine Rematch of the Century' for the 30th anniversary of the Paris Tasting event in May 24, 2006 which took place simultaneously in London and Napa Valley with two panels of judges.
Since 1977, and over the following thirty five years, Christian continued to pursue a career in wine, as a restaurateur and in the hospitality industry, initially in Paris, France, where he co-owned two restaurants, 'Le Moulin de Village' in the 8th district and 'Brasserie Gus' in the 2nd district. However, it was in 1984, while living in the US that Christian finally realised his dream - opening his own restaurant. As a result, he soon went on to work for some of the finest establishments in California, such as the Four Seasons Hotel Beverly Hills, L'Orangerie and Jack Nicholson's private club - Helena's - in Los Angeles, as well as the Givenchy Resort & Spa in Palm Springs. Consequently, in the mid-1990's he found an opportunity to open another restaurant in New York City's Upper East Side, 'La Palette', that flourished until it was sold in 1999.
In 2001 Christian moved to Bali to join forces with his brother Daniel, who had owned 'The Living Room' restaurant since 2000. He then went on to open Sip Wine Bar in 2008, which is proud to feature the most comprehensive wine list in Indonesia. His next venture in Bali, Sip Wine & Grill, is currently under construction and is due to open in July 2011. It will introduce some ground-breaking concepts and new ideas in food, wine and wine service and will house the largest wine cellar in Indonesia.
Why did Christian buy the 1811 Château d'Yquem? »
Why did Christian buy the 1811 Château d'Yquem?
A modest buyer of wine for many years, Christian notes that he has never been a 'serious collector'. In general, sommeliers are rarely collectors but rather wine drinkers, so Christian's history is not unusual. He has always maintained decent wine cellars in his homes in France and the US and over the years he has obtained some pretty interesting and obscure wines, particularly the white and red burgundies that he favours.
What truly triggered his interest for ancient vintages was his time at La Tour d'Argent. There he had the incredible opportunity to taste, daily and for more than ten years, the very best wines produced in Bordeaux and Burgundy covering more than two centuries of vintages! As it is the sommelier's primary responsibility to taste each wine ordered (so as to ensure the wine is not flawed), many vintages from the late 1800's through the early 1900's were regularly tasted by Christian and his team. Through these repeated tastings, Christian realised what an enjoyable and unique experience it is to drink a great wine at the very peak of its maturity. Simultaneously, he came to understand how bizarrely frustrating it is to have to wait nearly a third of one's life before appreciating a 'liquid purchase'.
Thus, when occasionally buying wines at auction for La Tour d'Argent, he bought a few bottles for himself - many of which were still quite affordable at that time - including vintages of d'Yquem from 1914, 1921, 1949 and 1959, which made him an d'Yquem fan. Christian also had the opportunity to visit Château d'Yquem a number of times over the years and got to know then owner Comte Alexandre de Lur Saluces who loved hosting sommeliers.
To honour these memories, Christian decided to purchase a rare and old bottle of white Bordeaux, preferably d'Yquem, for the opening of Sip Wine & Grill. He wanted the wine to be the focal point of the restaurant dining room, so as to permanently signal the restaurant's reputation as a 'wine Eden' and to enhance the curiosity of potential guests to visit his restaurant for the long term. After several months of research, he directed his attention to one of the leading international wine merchants, The Antique Wine Company in London, who was selling a single bottle of 1811 Château d'Yquem.
Christian wanted to be sure of the provenance of the bottle and The Antique Wine Company greatly assisted Christian in achieving his objective, providing all the right credentials for this extremely rare and precious bottle, including the original Record of Inspection from Château d'Yquem, dated February 2nd 2007 and signed by Stephen Williams - Managing Director of The Antique Wine Company, Sandrine Garbay - Maître de Chais de Château d'Yquem and John Salvi, MW - Master of Wine Bordeaux. The deal was cleared and the bottle was purchased by Christian.
Where did Christian get his passion for wine? »
Where did Christian get his passion for wine?
Christian's passion for wine began in 1967 while serving at La Tour d'Argent as a young cellar assistant. For his first two years, Christian remained 'underground', working diligently in the cellars of the legendary restaurant and learning the basics of the trade.
Becoming a world-class sommelier at a restaurant of La Tour d'Argent's calibre is no easy task and it was necessary for Christian to get to know all of the restaurant's wines in detail before he could progress any further. Included in the 17th Century cellar were many great Bordeaux wines - some of them well over a century old - and dream Burgundy bottles like 1865 Chambertin, 1929 Clos Vougeot and an extensive Domaine de la Romanée-Conti collection (with every single vintage available since the early 1900's). Additionally, there were prestigious Cognacs like Fine Clos du Greffier 1788, and rare liqueurs including the green and yellow Tarragona Chartreuse from the late 1800's.
Having been immersed in the theoretical side of the business for several years, in 1969 Christian transitioned from the theoretical to the practical and started in La Tour d'Argent's dining room as an apprentice sommelier under the wing of head sommelier Marcel Besson. This is where he began to seriously taste the wines he'd been handling for several years and the rest, as they say, is history...
On the 1811 Château d'Yquem's journey from London to BaliHow will the 1811 Château d'Yquem be transported?
How will the 1811 Château d'Yquem be transported? »
Christian will fly from London to Bali via Singapore Airlines to bring back the bottle with him.
Who created the bullet-proof case and bronze hand? »
Who created the bullet-proof case and bronze hand?
Creation and construction of the bullet-proof, temperature and hygrometrically-controlled 60cm x 50cm x 40cm showcase and bronze hand where the bottle of 1811 d'Yquem will rest at Sip Wine & Grill was a concerted effort between the architect / designer of Sip Wine & Grill, Espace Concept, Pierre Sicre, a French bronze artist and Christian Vanneque himself.