WASHINGTON – An exceptionally rare bottle of Champagne is headed to auction.
Christie’s London will auction a collection of vintage Champagne from Perrier-Jouet on Dec. 2 and 3. Among the cuvees stands an 1874 vintage of Perrier-Jouet Brut Millesime that is expected to fetch up to $20,000.
More than a century old, the bottle was produced before the Statue of Liberty made its voyage across the Atlantic, before Alexander Graham Bell was issued a patent for the telephone and before the first bottle of Coca-Cola was sold.
“This does not happen very often,” explained Tim Triptree, international director of Christie’s wine and spirits department. “There are hardly any bottles of this vintage, maybe a handful, they are just so incredibly rare.”
The bottle, which has slept for 147 years in the cellars of Perrier-Jouet in France’s famed Epernay region, comes with a tour, tasting, a meal prepared by three-star Michelin chef Pierre Gagnaire and an overnight stay at the 19th-century Maison Belle Epoque, the Champagne house responsible for the brand.
Triptree, who inspects and authenticates old bottles for Christie’s before they head to auction, said the market for vintage Champagne continues to sparkle.
“They can be absolutely sublime and extraordinarily complex,” Triptree said when asked about the quality of vintage bottles.
“Older Champagne tends to become much more richer, slightly more golden or amber in color and the aromatics intensify to offer a more caramel, some mocha, grilled hazelnuts or grilled almonds and even a little hint of sherry and Madeira,” explained Triptree, who is a certified Master of Wine.
“In terms of the palate, the fizz can sort of reduce quite considerably,” he added. “Maybe the wine will be a bit flat or there will be just a slight prickle. But it should still have the characteristic vibrant acidity that is associated with Champagne.”
This vintage last came under the gavel at Christie’s in 1888. It smashed records and became the most expensive Champagne ever sold at auction until 1967.
Despite a global pandemic that hampered sales and disrupted celebratory functions, the Comite Champagne estimates that the region brought in $4.8 billion in 2020 and exported 244 million bottles. The total fell approximately 18% from the prior year.
Behind the United States and the United Kingdom, Japan is the world’s third-leading export market for Champagne. Sales in Japan fell by 24.5% last year. Sales in the United States dropped nearly 19%, while sales in the United Kingdom slumped by about 22%.
Progressive reopening of markets is expected to drive sales to an estimated 305 million bottles worldwide in 2021, according to Comite Champagne.
“I think after people postponed their celebrations over the course of the pandemic and with the world reopening, people are ready to celebrate again,” Tiptree told CNBC when asked to judge the market for Champagne.
Another highlight of the auction is a bottle of Perrier-Jouet Brut Millesime 1964 that is expected to fetch nearly $2,000. The 1964 vintage also comes with a trip to the Maison Belle Epoque for two.
The other Perrier-Jouet offerings include eight Belle Epoque magnums dating back to 1976 to 1999, Belle Epoque Roses from 2004 and 2006, a 2002 Belle Epoque Blanc de Blanc, a jeroboam of Belle Epoque 2000 and a Belle Epoque from 2004.