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Wednesday 17 September 2014

Alex is king of the premier cru as he sells €3.65m reds

Anita Singh in London

Published 17/04/2014 | 01:04

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Christie’s staff with a bottle of Petrus 1988 and a Manchester United retro Champions League shirt from 1999. Reuters
Christie’s staff with a bottle of Petrus 1988 and a Manchester United retro Champions League shirt from 1999. Reuters

Alex Ferguson might have retired from football, but he is still in the market for reds.

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The former Manchester United manager is selling 5,000 bottles of rare wine in a Christie's auction expected to fetch at least £3m (€3.65m).

The “exceptional” collection is designed to appeal both to wine connoisseurs and Manchester United fans.

Some of the bottles are signed, while others come with an autographed team shirt.

Ferguson took up wine collecting as a distraction from the pressures of the game. Now retired, he has decided to offload some of the contents of his cellar.

The collection is dominated by wines from Burgundy, Bordeaux and regions of Italy. The finest of the 482 lots – which Ferguson calls his “star players” – will be offered for sale on May 24 in the Christie's branch in Hong Kong.

The most expensive lot is a methuselah of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Grand Cru 1997, with an estimate of up to £78,000.

Next at £50,000 to £66,000 is six bottles of Romanee-Conti 1999 – the year of Manchester United's victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final.

“It was the greatest time of my life,” Ferguson said.

“People keep saying: ‘What was the best moment of your life as a manager?'

“And it was 1999, without question. It coincided with the vintage Romanee-Conti '99 – a really special year.”

His interest in wine began in 1991 when he mentioned to a French hotelier that he liked red wine but didn't know much about it.

The wine buff told Ferguson: “Invest in '82s and '85s, you won't go wrong.”

Ferguson's wife, Cathy, advised him to take up wine collecting as a hobby.

“My wife said: ‘You're going to kill yourself, you're obsessed with the game'?” he explained.

“Taking an interest in wine allowed me to have an interest outside the game. You have to have a side interest to distract you from the intensity and the pressure that you come under as a football manager.

“I retired last year and I thought this was a good time to sell it.”

The 72-year-old was not always able to afford wines from the top end of the market. Recalling an early wedding anniversary, he told ‘Decanter’ magazine: “I remember my anniversary, at about 33, and I bought a bottle of wine for £15.

“I brought it home and my wife said: ‘Are you off your head?’”

Ferguson takes credit for the tradition of football managers enjoying a glass of wine after a game. “We're all in the same industry, we all share the same kind of problems and I always encourage a visiting manager to come in for a glass of wine and a bite to eat with me and my staff,” he said.

“Even though the rivalry is intense, you have to find that moment where you can say: ‘Look, the game's a game, let's carry on with our lives'.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and Manchester City's Roberto Mancini knew their wines, Ferguson said. But he could not resist a dig at Chelsea, claiming billionaire owner Roman Abramovich's wines “weren't very good”.

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