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Sir Alex Ferguson has mixed success in Christie's fine wine auction

Published:  09 June, 2014

Sir Alex Ferguson bought well when he was at Manchester United and enjoyed some exceptional years in charge. But now after retiring from the club he is enjoying off-loading some of his myriad responsibilities.

However, we are not talking football here. We're talking about his wine cellar. Since taking a lunch in 1991 in Montpelier, France, with a wine aficionado he has been infused with a love of good vino and has given it almost as much passion as football and his beloved Man United.

The reason we are discussing this side of his life is because he has been auctioning off some of his extensive cellar. Such is the global appeal of wine and the value of the Ferguson association that sales have been held in Hong Kong on May 24 and in London on June 5 at Christie's in venerable St James's. 

So how did his wine side fare in the UK? With a room of about 25 people and eight other Christie's personnel on the phones and handling internet bids proceedings kicked off at 10:30am precisely. 

Littered in among the lots were signed cards, banners, shirts and bottle labels that certainly helped raise interest levels in the sale.

Things started with a flourish as £26,000 was bid for a case of Pétrus 1990 with a card signed 'Best wishes Alex Ferguson'. But even this was below the £30,000 - 40,000 estimate. This was indicative of the way of the sale in general - especially with the French vintages that largely went below estimate.

For instance, a case of Pétrus 1996 went for £12,000 (estimate £14,000 -20,000), Pétrus 2000 reached £28,000 (estimate £35,000 - 45,000), and Pétrus 2009 went for £8,500 (estimate £12,000 -13,500). But Burgundy's Romanee-Conti fared well, with a 2002 magnum going for £14,000.   

However, things came alive with the Italian big guns, notably Sassicaia. Italian certainly made up a fair proportion of the sale and clearly represents an important part of the Ferguson cellar.

In a recent interview he tells of stories where he would exchange bottles of wine with managers after the game and he complained once about the quality of the wine José Mourinho from Chelsea brought. To address this, the club's owner Roman Abramovich quickly despatched a case of Tignanello - much to the pleasure of Ferguson.

He also tells of Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini bringing some Sassicaia to games and Arsenal boss Arséne Wenger also having some decent wines.

The first Sassicaia under the hammer in London was the 2004 and online bidders pushed it to £1,100 per case - above the estimate of £600 - 700. This was followed by an impériale from 2005 at £1,500 versus the £1,200 - 1,500 estimate.

The biggest flurry of action at the auction came with Lot 8346 an impériale of Ornellaia 2006, which went under the hammer for £2,200 versus its £850 - 1,000 estimate as online, phone and in-room bidders fought it out. Clearly the label signed 'Best wishes Alex Ferguson' played a role in its appeal. 

Manchester United was renowned for its ability to fight back and it was in similar style that the London sale came to a close, with the final lot - six bottles of Pétrus 2011 (along with a signed away shirt from the 2012/13 season) - went for £8,500 versus its £6,500 - 8,000 estimate. 

Sir Alex would have enjoyed the enthusiastic start and decent end to this game but not so much the underperformance in the middle.