Former Hong Kong politician Tang to auction rare wine collection

HONG KONG (AFP) - A former Hong Kong politician said on Tuesday he will sell part of his multi-million dollar wine collection, after the discovery of an illegal cellar was partly blamed for his loss in last year's leadership race.

The southern Chinese city's former number two Henry Tang was set for the chief executive spot in 2012 until a series of gaffes, including the discovery of the unauthorised basement containing a wine cellar at his luxury home, made him deeply unpopular.

Tang, well-known as a wine connoisseur, abolished duties on wine imports to Hong Kong in 2008, helping to turn the city into a regional wine centre.

Now the 60-year-old has decided to sell thousands of bottles of his Burgundy.

"I realised that I have far too much wine and I would never be able to consume it in a lifetime," Tang said in a statement.

"So I have decided to present a selection of wines from my collection at auction, and provide wine lovers around the world with the opportunity to purchase great bottles and enjoy the journey. After all, the best wines are those shared."

Christie's said the two-day auction will take place in Hong Kong in March.

The auction house said the 810 lots are expected to rake in up to HK$29 million (S$4.65 million) - and only represented "a small portion" of Tang's collection.

It did not specify where the wine was from, but in an interview with Tang on Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that none of the bottles in the sale were stored in the illegal cellar.

Among the wine to be auctioned are 12 bottles of 1978 DRC Montrachet estimated to be worth HK$400,000-HK$600,000.

The auction house described the Burgundy as one of Tang's "earliest and greatest loves" from a collection gathered over three decades, and said he had visited vineyards worldwide to search for the ideal bottle.

Tang, who as chief secretary was the government's second-in-command until September 2011, was thought to be Beijing's choice for Hong Kong's top job in the run-up to the chief executive election in March last year.

But he began his campaign with a public admission of marital infidelity and suffered another blow with the discovery of the unauthorised basement, which reportedly also included a Japanese-style bath and a workout room.

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