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19th century sherry sells for more than five times its estimate at auction

Mark Robertson, head of wine at Dreweatts (Zoltan Miklosi/Dreweatts/PA)

A 19th century bottle of sherry found in the cellar of London’s historic Apsley House, former home of the First Duke of Wellington (1769–1852), sold at auction today for five times its pre-sale estimate, realising £1,527.50 (AU$2,653.70) against an estimate £300-£700 (AU$520-$1216).

The sherry, which dates from 1840 re-emerged from a private collection and proved highly popular in a sale of Fine and Rare Wine and Spirits at Dreweatts, finally winning out to a UK buyer.

The rare sherry is believed to have been bottled at Apsley House between 1850-1870, when it was home to Arthur Wellesley, following his bestowment of the title of the ‘Duke of Wellington’ in gratitude for his military victories in the Peninsular and Napoleonic wars.

Following his specific success at the 1815 Battle of Waterloo, parliament awarded him £700,000 to build a new ‘Waterloo Palace’.

However rather than constructing a new building, he put in an anonymous winning bid of £40,000 to buy Apsley House. The purchase was to help his brother, the then owner of the lease to the house, as he was struggling financially. Wellington went on to become a leading figure in politics after the battle of Waterloo, becoming Prime Minister in 1828.

The sherry was purchased in 1977 at a Christie’s sale of wines from Apsley House and has been stored in a Hampshire cellar ever since. A bottle from the same collection from 1865 was tasted in 2020 at Christie’s and the tasting note was as follows:

“At over 150 years of age, it looked almost like a young en rama Manzanilla. On tasting, the 1865 was well-balanced, chalky and lightly nutty with a characteristic smoky edge. Its colour and youthful gait made it hard to believe it was bottled when Abraham Lincoln was President of the United States.”

Commenting on the sale of such a rare bottle, Mark Robertson, Head of Dreweatts Wine Department, said it was a wonderful bottle with only two careful owners in the last 170 years and it unsurprisingly garnered competitive bidding.

“We hope the new owner enjoys this unique sherry and whilst drinking can ponder on all the great historical moments that have passed since it was first bottled for the Duke of Wellington at Apsley house,” he said.

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