Sotheby’s to Stage the First Ever Dedicated Champagne Auction

A trove of rare bubblies from the collection of billionaire businessman Pierre Chen is coming to Sotheby's next month.

Man in white shirt poses against door frame
Pierre Chen’s wine collection is the most valuable to ever come to market. Courtesy Sotheby's

Sotheby's continues its grand sell-off of wine from the cellars of billionaire Pierre Chen, offering up some 25,000 of Chen’s bottles with the expectation of bringing in $50 million in total. That means the auction house will, by year’s end, have sold the most valuable wine collection to ever come to market. But right now, it is establishing another benchmark by holding the first-ever auction dedicated exclusively to Champagne.

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The upcoming sale will be the second in “The Epicurean’s Atlas,” the series of five auctions that will liquidate Chen’s bottles. Scheduled to take place in Paris on June 20, the Champagne-only event will be followed first by a sale of Burgundy wines and then by subsequent sales taking place in New York and Hong Kong later this year. The wine and spirits auction market is, by most reports, thriving—Sotheby’s wine sales alone have skyrocketed from $58 million in 2013 to a record $159 million in 2023.

Demand for Champagne has also risen in recent years, according to Sotheby’s. The auction house’s sales between 2022 and 2023 saw a threefold increase in the value and volume of Champagne sold. “Whilst we have noticed that Champagne sales increased considerably during lockdown and this has led to more interest in Champagne overall, the key driving factor behind this sale is the breadth and depth of Mr. Chen’s extraordinary Champagne cellar,” Nick Pegna, Sotheby’s global head of wine and spirits, told Observer. “This alone has allowed us to build this unique Champagne sale and to bring it to market.”

Four dark green wine bottles pictured against white background
Five bottles of 1971 Blanc de Blancs from Salon Le Mesnil are expected to realize up to $22,000. Courtesy Sotheby's

Sotheby’s The Ultimate Champagnes auction will feature some 1,850 bottles from Chen’s cellars with a total estimate of $1.6 million to $2.1 million. In addition to being the first Champagne auction, the sale will also mark the first time the auction house has staged a live wine sale in Paris. The treasure trove contains rare and legendary vintages from the 1950s to the 1990s and includes Champagne greats like Dom Pérignon, Krug, Salon and Roederer. Highlights include five bottles of 1971 Blanc de Blancs produced by Salon, which could realize between $15,000 and $22,000, and a prized 1966 magnum from Dom Pérignon with an estimate of between $8,000 and $11,000.

What else is in Pierre Chen’s wine collection?

Shortly after Sotheby’s champagne-dedicated sale comes the auction house’s Live in the Vines sale, which will take place on July 2 in Burgundy and showcase bottles from top Burgundy producers like Domaine de la Romanée-Contin, Domaines Leroy and d’Auvenay and Coche-Dury. The auction is expected to bring in between $1.8 million and $2.6 million and will notably offer up a special vertical of Faiveley Musigny magnums bottled exclusively for Chen, who has received the bottles annually since acquiring a parcel of the Grand Cru Musigny vineyard in 2015.

Despite having only just begun, Chen’s sale series has already made a staggering impact on the wine market. In November, the first chapter of The Epicurean’s Atlasa two-day auction of his wines in Hong Kong—achieved $16.8 million, among the highest ever fetched for a single wine sale. The collection offered up by Sotheby’s has been assembled by Chen over some forty years and represents just a fraction of his entire wine holdings of hundreds of thousands of bottles.

Born and raised in Taiwan, Chen has an estimated net worth of $6.3 billion and is the founder and chairman of electronics component maker Yageo. He first became interested in wine as a child when his family began making wine at home, an unusual activity in an era when most Taiwanese people preferred whisky. The billionaire is particularly known for using his experience as an epicure to experiment with nontraditional food and wine pairings. One of his personal favorites “is spicy hotpot with Champagne,” said Chen in a statement. “The combination of wine, food and company at any one moment makes each encounter totally unique, but every memory of every encounter brings a smile to my face,” he added.

Sotheby’s to Stage the First Ever Dedicated Champagne Auction