AUCTIONS: The High Cost of Sipping

Part way through Heublein Inc.'s third annual wine auction in San Francisco last week, Auctioneer J. Michael Broadbent apologized for being unable to distribute samples of his next offering, Lot No. 56. He did not have to explain why. Lot No. 56 consisted of a single 24-ounce bottle of Château Lafite, vintage 1846, that was described as "quite unfaded and fantastic." After several minutes of quiet, tense bidding, it was sold to Laurence Bender, a 25-year-old officer of Boston's venerable wine and spirits merchants, John Gilbert Jr. Co. The price: $5,000, more...

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