140-year-old Moutons on the block for 'Year of the Sheep'


HONG KONG -- The works of Chagall, Picasso, Andy Warhol and the Prince of Wales will all be up for sale on Friday, but not in picture frames. These works are on the labels of wines from Chateau Mouton Rothschild to be auctioned by Sotheby's in Hong Kong.

Wines with vintages ranging from 1870 to 2012 -- and which have never left the Pauillac estate -- were inspected, packed and photographed at the Mouton cellars by Sotheby's London staff before making their voyage to Asia.

With the Year of the Sheep just weeks away on the Chinese lunar calendar, the chateau intends to make the most of its emblem, which features two rams standing on their hind legs. In 2003, the previous Year of the Sheep, the Chinese were not major buyers. This time around, they are unquestionably the focus of the event.

One lot up for auction consists of wines from 1968, '78, '88, '98 and 2008, all ending in the number 8, a symbol of good fortune in China. Another lot is made up of vintages with paintings of rams on their labels, while a third features label illustrations by two Chinese artists, Gu Gan in 1996 and Xu Lei in 2008.

One of the highlights of the auction will be the "one-off vertical," a rare collection of wines from all but two vintages between 1945 and 2012. The 66-bottle collection is expected to fetch up to 2 million Hong Kong dollars (S$345,380).

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