Next week sees a wine auction take place at Morrell and Company. Nothing unusual about that, but alongside the fine and rare bottles that you would expect are a few unlikely inclusions, such as a bottle of Cinzano vermouth which would not usually be likely to trouble the $100 mark.
The reason the auctioneer has indulged in less expensive tastes is not because the fine wine market is struggling (it certainly is not), but because the bottles have another claim to fame: they were confiscated from the cellar of the disgraced and convicted fraudster Bernie Madoff.
Madoff certainly had some genuine quality in his cellar as well. Some of the highlights include: six bottles of 1990 Chateau Beychevelle ($350-$480), one bottle of 1964 Chateau Cheval Blanc ($500-$750), six bottles of 1997 Antinori Tignanello ($850-$1,200) and a whole case of 1996 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild ($3,200-$3,800).
However, as we've seen with previous Madoff auctions the notoriety of the previous owner can propel the value of the lots far past their estimates. Madoff's slippers have sold for $6,000 whilst his personalised New York Mets jacket sold for $14,500 (20 times the estimate).
The convict's diamond engagement ring sold for a stunning $550,000, so the auction is understandably expecting a boost from the memorabilia effect. Indeed they say:
"As artifacts of history they are unique, which is why we have chosen to offer all of the bottles seized, including those which normally wouldn't pass muster and make it into our auction.
"Some of the bottles are better viewed as conversation pieces rather than valued for their contents, but conversation pieces they are."
The auction takes place on May 18, with the proceeds from the Madoff bottles going to compensate his victims. Watch this space for more news on this exciting event.