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Wines hidden from Nazis put up for sale

A British auction house is selling a cache of wines from the 1920s that had been stashed away from the Nazis in a bricked up cellar during World War II.
/ Source: Reuters

A British auction house is selling a cache of wines from the 1920s that had been hidden from the Nazis in a bricked up cellar during World War II.

The wines, which will be sold by Bonhams on March 17 in London, come from the cellars of Bucktrout & Co. Ltd. on Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands off the coast of France that was occupied by German troops.

The bottles, which include Latour, Margaux, Mouton Rothschild and Ausone from vintages dating back to the 1920s, remained undisturbed during the occupation, Dave Robilliard, Bucktrout's managing director said.

Once Guernsey was liberated, the cellar was too.

"As you can imagine, we've had quite a lot of interest in the auction from the Channel Islands themselves," Richard Harvey, Bonhams' head of wines, said.

"The occupation was something quite significant for us on the mainland as well as for those on the islands. Anytime you mention the Germans and World War II, there's still an obsession here," he said.

The Channel Islands were the only British soil to be occupied by German troops during the war.

The Liberation Group, a small company based on the neighboring island of Jersey, bought Bucktrout, which has been in the wine business since early in the 19th century.

"They moved to a new, more modern facility and realized they had no proper way of displaying or holding these wines," said Harvey.

"They would be the kind of thing that one would serve at dinners for directors and that sort of thing. Now, it's just private individuals who set up these dinners and tastings."

Slump won't stop sales
The wines will be featured among the more than 1,500 bottles going under the hammer. Provenance with wines of such age is always a concern, but Harvey said he personally inspected all the bottles offered and is satisfied with their authenticity.

He estimated that the five bottles of Chateau Latour 1926 would fetch between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds ($2,164 - $2,889), while the eight bottles of Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1928 would go for between 1,600 and 1,800 pounds ($2,308 - $2,596).

The two dozen bottles of Chateau Ausone 1928 could fetch between 2,400 and 3,000 pounds ($3,462 - $4,325).

The oldest bottle in the collection, Harvey's 1897 Special Quality Port, is estimated to go for between 100 and 150 pounds ($144 - $216).

Asked if the current slump in the auction market would affect the prices, Harvey replied, "The prices are conservative ... and the estimates do reflect the levels in the bottles and things of like that."

He added, "It's a completely different trading board with a limited number of wines over the last 25 years. It has no bearing on wines of this age."