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Terroir Alert: Burgundy

New vintage-wine collector bids, imbibes.

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Big Boy is on a tear. The rarest, most expensive collection of vintages from possibly the most desired vineyard on the planet—DRC Romanée-Conti, a red Burgundy—has finally come up for sale, and he can’t sit still. “Bid!” he barks, an unlit cigar dangling from his mouth at Café Gray last month. “Bid!” he yells again, staring down other buyers. “Bid!” one more time, reaching for his crotch. Like real estate and art, wine is one of the things the rich—often hedge-funders and tycoons making fortunes in Russia and China—are spending their money on. Many are like Big Boy, a 36-year-old real-estate investor and wine autodidact whose real name is Robert Rosania. The two-day auction, held by Acker, Merrall & Condit, shattered by over $10 million a one-day sales record of $14.4 million set by Sotheby’s back in 1999. It was also friendly to this unstuffy new breed: John Kapon, the auctioneer, avoids using French “because of that whole accent thing,” and describes how the taste of a ’96 La Tâche “reminded me of an 18-year-old supermodel: way too young, but everyone has to stop and stare.” Rock and roll! Last year, the total amount for wine purchased at auctions increased by 31 percent, to $166 million. Unlike art, which can hang on a wall for years untouched, wine is a liquid asset that disappears. At the Acker auction, for instance, one magnum of 1911 DRC Romanée-Conti doubled the estimate, fetching $100,000. That’s about $8,333 a glass. “It’s wild, just wild,” says Peter Meltzer, Wine Spectator’s auction tracker and author of Keys to the Cellar. “This just shows that there are serious collectors out there willing to pay a small fortune to own these things—and drink them.” And now, “the question on everyone’s minds,” says wine consultant Brian Orcutt, “is when is this bubble going to burst?”

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