GENEVA (AFP) - The last batch of late legendary winemaker Henri Jayer's Burgundies - which include some of the world's most expensive wines - go on auction in Geneva on Sunday and could rake in up to US$13 million (S$18 million).
In all, 1,064 bottles will go under the hammer at the Baghera Wines auction, which will take place at a gourmet restaurant in Geneva. They include Cros-Parantoux Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru, which ranks among the world's priciest wines.
The 855 standard bottles and 209 magnums, dating from between 1970 and 2001, are from the personal wine cellar of the man broadly considered the king of the Pinot Noir.
"These bottles and magnums from his personal reserve were a bit like his laboratory... A way to see his vintage wines age over the years," his daughters Lydie and Dominique Jayer, wrote to AFP in an e-mail.
"It was natural for us, since we could not drink all of these bottles, to offer them up for sale so that wine lovers...could buy them and drink them, in his honour," they said.
The daughters will be present at the auction to watch the dispersion of their inheritance.
Frenchman Henri Jayer, who died in 2006 at the age of 84, established a name for himself in the 1970s, when specialised wine reviews ranked his wines among the best in the world.
Over the years, he became "the emblem of the Burgundy in the eyes of the public", Swiss wine critic Jacques Perrin, who knew Mr Jayer personally, told AFP.
His wine has "all the grace of the Pinot, the slenderness, the structure, the aromatic finesse. He did everything to preserve that", Mr Perrin said.
Baghera Wines chief Michael Ganne agreed.
"The great force of the Henri Jayer wines, when you have the chance to taste such wine, is really the fruit, (which) has just an incredible elegance and finesse," he told AFP.
It is this quality that has made Mr Jayer's wines some of the most sought after in the wine world - and brought them their sometimes astronomical price tags.
The most expensive lot at the auction - a series of 15 magnums of Vosne-Romanee Cros-Parantoux dating from 1978 to 2001 - has been valued at between 280,000 (S$379,023) and 480,000 Swiss francs.
The entire auction is expected to pull in between 6.7 million and 13 million francs - an amount that has raised eyebrows in the business.
"I'm not sure it is really worth the price," Mr Perrin said.
He said the cost reflected "the speculation effect, which is undeniable", but also "the collector effect", spurred by an eagerness to acquire "this last vestige of a heritage, almost a relic".
Mr Ganne, meanwhile, explained that "buyers of this kind of wine are generally fairly well-known collectors", predicting that a number of Asian, American and some European wine auction regulars would show up.
Each bottle is equipped with a seal that guarantees its traceability and authenticity.
Mr Jayer's daughters hope the bottles' new owners will not just leave them in their cellars to gain dust and value.
"We hope they will go into the cellars of wine lovers who know how to open and drink these wines," they said.
"Let's not forget that wine is synonymous with sharing, and these wines were above all made to be drunk and enjoyed."