AROUND the time Sir Alex Ferguson stopped playing football professionally for Ayr United in 1974, he bought a £15 bottle of wine to celebrate his wedding anniversary.
"I took it home," he explained to Decanter magazine, "and my wife Cathy said: 'Are you off your head?'" Today you wonder when the Fergusons last drunk anything quite so cheap.
He began collecting wine seriously in 1991, allegedly to take his mind off football, and he has now decided to sell the bulk of it at auction in Hong Kong and later in London.
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The collection resembles that of a Russian oligarch, albeit one with impeccable taste, with Domaine de la Romanée Conti, known as DRC to its fans, undoubtedly the gold standard among red Burgundies, while Château Petrus enjoys similar status in Bordeaux. The sale includes six bottles of the highly-rated 1999 vintage of DRC with an estimate of HK$650-850,00 (£50-65,000). Amazingly that sounds about right for a wine that cost £3,846 on release in the UK in 2002. It should be reaching its peak just about now.
Other highlights include DRC from 2005, a six-litre bottle of Ornellaia from Tuscany and a case of 2000 Petrus. Again, the estimates appear reasonable, though what the 'Ferguson effect' and assorted Manchester United memorabilia will do to the price remains to be seen.
By the end of the summer Sir Alex may be around £3 million richer, and he still has 800 bottles left in his collection to enjoy. It's all right for some.