A Hong Kong restaurateur has become the first individual purchaser to take delivery of a Penfolds limited-edition ampoule of wine priced at 168,000 Australian dollars ($175,000).
Ampoule No. 6 was handed over to Wong Wing Chee in Hong Kong on Saturday. He is the owner of a chain of restaurants in the Chinese territory operated under the Dragon King brand. They include the high-end Dragon Seal Restaurant and Bar housed near the top of the 118-story ICC Tower in Hong Kong’s business district.
Penfolds describes the celebrity chef as “a passionate food and wine identity,” who is also an avid wine collector.
The 12 individually numbered, hand-blown ampoules were unveiled at a tasting in Moscow earlier this year. No. 1 has been retained by Penfolds and is on display at the company's historic Magill Estate Winery in Australia. The remainder have been "sold or allocated around the world." One is on show at Hedonism Wines in London, which prides itself on stocking rare and unusual products. It is charging $194,400 for the designer piece.
Each of the ampoules contains 750ml of the rare 2004 Kalimna Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon from South Australia's Barossa Valley. A normal bottle of the vintage currently sells at an average price of $747 ex tax.
Situated on the 101st floor of the ICC skyscraper, the Dragon Seal restaurant will become the new home of Chef Wong Wing Chee's ampoule. According to Time Out Hong Kong, the restaurant is "Wong’s attempt to zero in on the big money-making crowd from the offices of the neighbouring investment banks."
Penfolds ambassador Jamie Sach and the artist who designed the glass ampoules, Nick Mount, traveled to Hong Kong to effect the handover, which was celebrated with a private dinner.
The ampoules are housed in individual wooden cabinets and are suspended from a "plumb-bob" of grey glass. Penfolds has promised that the creations will provide their new owners with "a truly memorable experiential and sensory engagement." The company intends the ampoules to be "unique objets d’art, designed to store wine in an ideal environment."
If and when Wong decides to drink the wine he has purchased, a Penfolds winemaker will travel to Hong Kong for a special ceremony. Penfolds has promised all purchasers that their ampoules will be opened "using a specially designed, tungsten-tipped, sterling silver scribe-snap. The winemaker will then prepare the wine using a beautifully crafted sterling silver tastevin [sommelier's tasting cup]."
Perhaps the $175,000 question is: how will the wine taste? American critic James Suckling awarded the 2004 Kalimna Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon 100/100 points, while Britain's Jancis Robinson gave it 19/20. Penfolds describes it as a rare, single-vineyard wine, made from the oldest continuously producing cabernet sauvignon vines in the world. It says the 2004 vintage is "beautifully aromatic and perfectly balanced."