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Trailblazing El Bulli Sells Off Its Cellar

Chef Ferran Adrià outside El Bulli, Roses, northern Spain
© Lluis Gene/AFP | Chef Ferran Adrià outside El Bulli, Roses, northern Spain
From house wine to Pétrus, one of the world's stellar eateries puts its wine collection up for sale.

Renowned Spanish restaurant El Bulli closed last July and now the estimated 10,000 bottles in its wine cellar are to be sold by Sotheby's. However, the auction house is currently remaining tight-lipped about where and when the sale will take place.

"Detailed information regarding Sotheby’s sale of wines from El Bulli restaurant will be available in due course," a Sotheby's spokeswoman told Wine-Searcher.

Repeatedly crowned as the world's best restaurant, El Bulli pushed the boundaries of contemporary cuisine for more than two decades under acclaimed chef Ferran Adrià, the pioneer of molecular gastronomy.

The diverse 139-page wine list from the Michelin three-starred restaurant shows that the cellar embraced the world’s classics in its 1,600 different wines, from Bordeaux and Burgundy to Piedmont, as well as modern Spanish wines and Canadian ice wine.

Wines ranged in price from 21.40 euros ($26.50) for a bottle of either the 2008 Enate 234 Chardonnay or 2009 Agusti Torello XII, to 5,350 euros ($6,629) for the 1999 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s Romanée Conti. Other highlights included 1982 Gaja Barbaresco Sori Tildin at 695.60 euros ($862), a 417-euro ($517) bottle of sherry – Oloroso Reliquia de Barbadillo – and the 2000 Pétrus at 3,745 euros ($4640).

The collection was compiled by Adrià's business partner, Juli Soler, who admitted that it was difficult to find the right wine to go with the 39 futurist creations served on a single night, including paella ice cream, and sea anemone and rabbit brains.

Adrià, 50, announced last year that he was closing his eatery in Cala Montjoi near the resort of Roses, a two-hour drive north of Barcelona, and replacing it with a culinary research centre.

Preparing dozens of courses each night and fielding the millions of requests for a table that the restaurant received each year had left him with little time to be inventive in the kitchen.

"We created a monster and it was time to find a way to tame it," Adrià told reporters as he sat at a table outside his restaurant before its final meal was served, flanked by past and present El Bulli chefs dressed in white.

"It would be logical for this to be a very sad day but it is the opposite. We are happy, very happy because the project will continue," added Adrià, the co-owner and, since 1987, the head chef of the restaurant.

The El Bulli Foundation is scheduled to open in 2014 in a building to be built beside the restaurant, which is reached by driving along a winding mountain road surrounded by pine and olive trees. It will grant between 20 and 25 scholarships annually for chefs to spend a year working with El Bulli's core staff on new creations. The results will be posted online.

Adrià's trailblazing approach to cooking uses hi-tech methods to take apart and rebuild foods in surprising ways. The 50 guests invited to the final meal at El Bulli began with his version of a dry Martini – a dish composed of a spherical globule of reconstituted olive that was placed on the tongue and then spritzed with atomised gin and vermouth.

El Bulli was open for only half the year. Staff at the 50-seat restaurant annually fielded more than two million requests for its roughly 8,000 sittings, with tables in the rustic dining room allotted mostly via a form of lottery. Dinner was a degustation menu of between 30 and 50 small dishes, which cost 270 euros ($385) not including tax, drinks or tip.

But despite its popularity, the restaurant was losing half a million euros ($621,000) a year, in part because preparing the dozens of items on the menu often involved more chefs in the kitchen than the diners it hosted each night.

El Bulli made up the shortfall through a series of spin-offs, including books, a range of kitchenware, speaking engagements by Adrià, and lending its name to a range of products, from olive oil to cutlery.

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