A 48-year-old visitor from France with excellent family connection moved to Washington yesterday and settled into a plush red pad on MacArthur Boulevard.
It appeared to be somewhat fragile place for a bottle of wine valued at $10,000, but the new owner of this jeroboam of Chateau Mounton-Rothschild from the renowned vintage of 19.29 Addy Bassin, said it will remain on view in his MacArthur Liquors shop for a year. There are about 144 ounces of wine in the hand - blown bottle, meaning it is worth about $300 a glass.
It was considered something of a bargain when Bassin swept it up with a single bid at the ninth annual Heublein Premier National Auction of Rare Wines in New Orleans last spring. An identical bottle had brought $11,200 at the 1975 auction and, according to Heublein'sinternational wine manager, Alexander C. McNally, no other jeroboams have surfaced.
Wine authority Sam Aaron has said 1929 was "probably the best year of the 20th century" and in that vintage "Mouton proved to be the best vineyard." Thus, while the bid was below the record of $14,200 (paid in 1976 for Rothschild), Bassin feels "the chances of it being great are excellent."
Describing himself as "more a wine hobbyist than businessman at this point," he said the wine would not be resold. "It's going to be on display here," he said. "If people want to touch it, they can. After that it's mine for a special occasion."
Bassin hadn't seen his prize first hand until yesterday. According to witnesses in New Orleans, he had obtained it with the same sort of daring he had shown as a star quarterback at Coolidge High School here in the early 1940s. The bidding opened $6,000. Bassin immediately offered $10,000 and by the time the gasps had died it was his. He went on to spend an additional $20,000 on wines that day.
"It's not such a gamble," he said."People spend $50,000 on a postage stamp they'll never use. I paid $17,500 for a horse a year ago and I'm not sure he'll ever be on a racing strip
They did not open one bottle yesterday. Not the 1929, but a youngster relative, a 1955 Mouton - Rothschild that had come down from Hartford, Conn., in the same suitcase ("We checked to be sure the airport scanner wouldn't harme the wine," said McNally, a very meticulous man.)
Some customers who moments before had been passing bottles of jug wine over the ordinary appearing suitcase on the salecounter looked on in awe as McNally produced the two bottles, a quartlet of glasses, a silver candleholder, a candle, a small box of matches, a silver tasting cup and his corkscrew.
In a matter of moments, the cork was out, the wine had been poured into a decanter and then into glasses. The principals sniffed the wine, tasted it and approved. Addy Bassin smiled with pleasure.
Unlike his solitary magnum, he owns a quantity of the 1955 Mouton and it is for sale - for a mere $49.95 a bottle. CAPTION: Picture 1, Addy Bassin toasts the arrival of his $10,000 jeroboam of 1929 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild; Photos by Gerald Martineas - The Washington Post; Picture 2, The Bottle.