We all know pricey real estate sparks more interest when it has the name of a notable person attached to it. The same apparently holds true for wine. Bottles seized from infamous Ponzi-schemer Bernie Madoff’s Palm Beach estate are noteworthy in their own right — some bottles are rare vintages. However, what makes them even more alluring is their connection to one of America’s biggest crime busts.
Educator and author of “How to Drink Like a Billionaire“, Mark Oldman, bid on several lots in 2011. While the entire auction brought in $41,530 — with proceeds going to victims’ families — Oldman cherrypicked some gems. He paid $420 for a ’70 Palmer, $550 for a Cheval Blanc, and $450 for a Taittinger. Oldman found the FBI tags hanging from them, with annotations such as, ‘Item 1, downstairs bedroom on right,’ equally alluring. Knowing America’s desire to get drunk on true crime stories, he explained to Bloomberg, “I saw a picture of one bottle with the U.S. Marshall seizure tag, so before bidding, I called the auction house and insisted on getting those tags with the bottles.” He continues, “The wine wasn’t so worthwhile without them. I wanted this kind of artifact of criminal history. It’s like the wine version of Capone’s gun.”
Oldman has always been fascinated by what the calls “the intersection of wine and crime” — so much so he has set up a “Felony Room” in his Gramercy Park apartment. Inside resides some rather interesting conversation pieces, including a huge glass display case with an empty bottle of 1970 Palmer, identical to the one he bought from the Madoff auction, along with a transcript from a trial. It is accompanied by an antique Parisian bottle drying rack laden with empty bottles — many of which are extremely valuable, even empty.
And now the time had finally come: on the eve of the anniversary of Madoff’s arrest Oldman was finally ready to uncork one of the bottles for a taste test, and invited an eager Bloomberg reporter to join him.
The reporter chose the 46-year old Palmer and notes it was far more vibrant than expected. With initial hints of truffles which quickly morphed into notes of expensive leather, the reporter declared it an unforgettable wine.
Still, the story behind its original owner supersedes its exceptional taste. [Bloomberg]