Henry James thought that the two most beautiful words in the English language were ‘summer afternoon’. Fair enough – although the words ‘vintage champagne’ have a similarly pleasing ring to them. (Run the four words together, come to think of it, and you’re really in business.)
Nevertheless, a taste for vintage champagne is a relatively modern phenomenon, and one that was, until very recently, shared almost exclusively by the English. (Truly. Even the French were all sort of ‘Ah, bof’ about old fizz.)
For those who get the point of vintage champagne, however, Sotheby’s upcoming sale of 270 lots of Grand Vintage champagnes by Moët & Chandon, spanning almost a century from 1914 to 2004, is in itself a good reason to pop a cork.
The six bottles of 1914 up for grabs are the ultimate trophy, as exotic and beautiful as a snow leopard. But the 1959, with its luscious lapsang souchong smokiness, is, in your correspondent’s opinion, almost certainly as lovely.
As Serena Sutcliffe, Sotheby’s head of wine, put it at a pre-sale tasting this week: ‘I promise you, it is really rare to have a champagne sale like this – historic, with vintages that are virtually drunk up and bottles that have been specially disgorged for the sale and that have never left the cold cellars of Moët. That is perfect provenance. Pounce on them while you can.’
Sotheby’s sale of finest and rarest wines, 34-35 New Bond Street, Wednesday 13-14 November 2013. For more information, see sothebys.com