When Lloyd Cooper Flatt died in 2008, aged 71, the world of wine collecting lost not only a pioneer and tireless student of the art, but a unique character whose take on the pursuit was unlike anyone else's in the world.
New Orleans resident Flatt, an international aerospace consultant with a trademark eye-patch and roaring laugh, began collecting high quality wines in the late 1960s with a focus on first-growth Bordeaux.
When he started collecting, wine connoisseurship was rare in America, and Flatt was amongst the first to devote the time and energy to it that it deserved. He was not a hoarder, however - despite a fellow collector's comparison of his cellar to 'Aladdin's Cave' - far less an investor. Fine wines were there to be understood, enjoyed and above all drunk.
"Unlike an art collection, which is permanent, wine ultimately must be consumed. You should never contemplate a cellar if you cannot accept that fact.", he once opined. Flatt also gleefully quoted his mother on the subject, "the only difference between a 'wino' and a 'wine connoisseur' is money," she believed.
That belied the countless hours he spent researching rare wines and travelling to find the treasures, but it was in keeping with his view of wine as neither an investment, nor a status symbol; it was not even the abstract pleasure of collecting, but the down-to-earth one of tasting - and offering the same opportunities to others.
Legendary is the only word to describe the greatest of Flatt's tastings. Whilst connoisseurs will occasionally partake in vertical tastings (comparing wines of a particular vineyard from various years) the tasting he held of 115 different years of Chateau Lafite Rothschild, starting with the 1784 vintage, is unlikely to ever be matched.
Flatt's drinking and sharing of his collection was not limited to grand, formal occasions. Any guest, even a casual acquaintance, who inquired about a particular bottle had a good chance of seeing it opened.
Lloyd 'mentally expensed' wine when he bought it, and this no doubt facilitated his great generosity. It also allowed him to be extremely unpretentiousness about drinking himself.
As happy drinking in pyjamas in the garden as in morning suits and top hats, Flatt also made unlikely food and wine pairings. Despite being fond of fine foods, he would sometimes match a Dom Perignon with a pizza from Dominos, or a Lafite with a cheeseburger, believing "if the wine is good enough the food will follow".
Despite never having regarded himself as an investor, Flatt's cellar proved to have been an excellent investment following his death when it was sold at Sotheby's. The sale totalled $1.18m, easily exceeding estimates.
A Methuselah of Romanée-Conti 1976 led the way, selling for $42,350 - double its highest estimate. A jeroboam of Chateau Lafite 1959 and a set of six magnums of La Tache each went for $30,250 (despite an $18,000 high estimate).
The auctioneer's Serena Sutcliffe, who knew Flatt said that they were 'honoured' to be offering the cellar, noting:
"Lloyd's assessments of wines went to the heart of the matter [...] If ever a collection were a reflection of the individuality and character of the collector, this amazing array of wines is the perfect example."
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