With a bottle from the reign of Napoleon... Christian Vanneque's fine wine collection

Christian Vanneque staked his claim to wine expertise early becoming France's youngest chef sommelier at La Tour d'Argent in Paris, at the age of 20. At the time, that meant being tasked with what was arguably the greatest wine cellar in the world.

The World Record price for a white wine is set...

That was back in 1967, and he stayed with the restaurant until 1977, enjoying the privilege of being able to taste though not own great wines including some from the 19th century.

In 1977 he became a restaurant owner, first with two restaurants in Paris before moving on to California and then Indonesia. Notably he owns the relatively new SIP Wine Bar in Seminyak.

With the restaurateur business, Vanneque began to acquire exceptional wines both for his own and his restaurants' cellars. His particular interests are in sauternes (sweet dessert wines including true Sauternes from Sauternais region of the Graves section in Bordeaux).

Above all, he hunted for Chateau d'Yquems, including some 1959, 1951 and 1967. It's relatively rare for top collectors to specialise in white wines (though a few, such as Robert Rosania, collect vintage Champagne), but Vanneque does, though he also paid 3,000 francs for two bottles of 1929 Chateau Cheval Blanc back in 1984.

These would no doubt have acted as a good investment, but like Lloyd Flatt, Vanneque only buys wine with an eye to its being drunk, and has been quoted as saying that how much he pays is a reflection simply of how much he wants a given bottle.

Vanneque's attitude to wine-buying finds its parallel in his wine-tasting. As a renowned expert, he was part of a panel which compared a range of top class Bordeaux to relatively unknown Californian vintages, with the latter more than holding their own.

The Frenchman was part of both this original 'Judgment of Paris' in 1976 and its re-creation in 2006, and joking mused that he probably couldn't risk going back to his birth country again.

Now aged 62, Vanneque can look back on a prestigious career in the industry - not that he's done yet - and with the 50 year anniversary of his career just a few years away, he has made a particularly spectacular purchase in its name:

Last month, The Antique Wine Company auctioned a bottle of 1811 Chateau d'Yquem, which Vanneque won the battle to own, fulfilling a long-held dream. He paid a staggering £75,000 ($122,206), making it the most valuable bottle of white wine sold commercially anywhere in the world.

"I knew I had Napoleon's height and now I have something from his reign and it is a bit humbling," Vanneque joked.

The bottle will be displayed in a bulletproof case at Vanneque's Bali restaurant. But it's not for sale.

Instead, he intends to drink it himself to mark the 50 years, at a very special dinner in 2017 for which he is already considering the menu. Bon Appétit!


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