Usually, when you hear about wines fetching 5-figure prices at auction, the bottles are cru classe Bordeaux or grand cru Burgundy from outstanding vintages of decades ago. On occasion, it will be a wine unearthed from an Egyptian tomb or a discovered by a diver in a sunken ship. Regardless, these bottles are exclusively available to high-heeled collectors on the auction scene, sold at exorbitant prices during live events held by the likes of Sotheby’s or Christie’s – the kind where an auctioneer is rattling out numbers in double-time and people raise paddles to bid.
But perhaps the most wanted bottle of wine today is not Bordeaux, not Burgundy, not rescued from the Titanic, and is not from a rare vintage – actually, it has NO vintage. Further, it’s available on eBay – you can place a bid right now if you’re reading this before Groundhog Day.
At first glance, the entry is fairly innocuous – it’s a 6-liter bottle of Taittinger Champagne Brut La Francaise, a non-vintage wine. A deliciously wonderful, big bottle of bubbles that would be the centerpiece of a celebration. A bottle that size (called a “methusaleh”), with that kind of high-end Champagne inside, is rare and difficult to find at retail, but not impossible. With a few phone calls and the patience to wait a few weeks, you can probably get one for somewhere in the neighborhood of $600 – a substantial sum for most people, but not the kind of cost that turns heads at auctions. What makes this bottle particularly special is not only what is on the inside, but what’s on the outside – it’s autographed by over a hundred of Hollywood’s elite.
It’s this detail, combined with the accessibility of eBay, which is driving the demand. The wine’s perceived value extends far beyond the small audience of wine collectors – it appeals to everyone enthralled with the big screen. So, the star-struck moviegoers; the supermarket shoppers peeking at UsWeekly and The National Enquirer; the citizens of social media scouring the Twitterverse for the latest on Brad and Jen — in other words, this bottle has appeal to pretty much anyone in North America.
Yes, there are many autographed items out on the market — sports heroes and celebrities sign things all the time. But there are very few items autographed by this many actors and actresses. It’s kind of like a giant baseball signed by every living Hall of Famer, or a basketball signed by every NBA all-star of the past two decades. Just a small sampling of the stars who signed this bottle of Taittinger Champagne: Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, Tom Hanks, Al Pacino, Joaquin Phoenix, Jennifer Lopez, Christian Bale, Renee Zellweger, Robert De Niro, Glenn Close, Helena Bonham Carter, Jason Bateman, Laura Dern, Nicole Kidman, Lupita Nyong’o, Sophie Turner, Michelle Williams, Henry Winkler, Eugene Levy, and almost the entire cast of Stranger Things (including David Harbour and Winona Ryder, of course). Again, that’s just a few of the over 120 autographs on the bottle.
It’s difficult enough to get so many Hollywood stars to the same place at the same time, much less convince them to sign a bottle of Champagne. So how did this happen? The 2020 Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards. In addition to honoring the top performers, the show also raises money for the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, which, among other activities, sponsors a children’s literacy program, provides scholarship programs, and offers medical assistance to artists in need. Vitalie Taittinger, the newly appointed president of Champagne Taittinger, donated the 6-liter bottle specifically to support these altruistic endeavors, and so, to raise the value, the actors volunteered to sign it — right after they walked the red carpet during the pre-show ceremonies.
How high will the bidding go? Hard to predict, as it is such an out-of-the-ordinary auction item. Wine experts suggest that the bottle on its own, without the signatures, could fetch at least $1000, but the bid as of this writing has already blown well past that. Any random singular item autographed by just one Hollywood star can be valued at anywhere from $10 to $500 or more, depending on the item. If you multiply $10 by 120+, you get $1200, but there’s enough argument that having so many stars’ autographs on one item justifies a significantly higher value. Will the bidding reach $3000? $5000? $10,000? More? Time will tell, but if you’re interested, you better act quickly — the auction ends on Sunday, February 2 (you’ll have to click through the auction link to find out if Bill Murray or anyone else from the cast of Groundhog Day signed the bottle).