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A brief history of the 1928 Collection du Docteur Barolet (Henri de Villamont) Pommard-Epenots

A Brief History

According to the Christie’s auction house, the wines of Dr. Albert Barolet have their origins in a business created by his father Mr. Arthur Barolet.[1]  Mr. Arthur Barolet would purchase wine in barrel for delivery to his cellar in Beaune.  Here the wine would undergo elevage, bottling, and maturation at which point it was privately sold to various customers.

Map of Pommard from Camille Rodier “Le Vin de Bourgogne” c.1920.

There appears to be but few records regarding the Barolet firm which might be the result of it dealing with mostly private clients.  The firm of Arthur Barolet et Fils was founded in 1830.  This date is found on a blank menu titled “Gargantua aux Hospices de Beaune” from 1906 as well as on company letterhead from the 1940s.[2] In the early 20th century, there are a few listings of the firm mostly with regards to the annual sales of wine at the Hospices de Beaune.

Service announcement for the death of Arthur Barolet, 18 November 1931. [3]

Arthur Barolet passed away in 1931 at the Hospices de Beaune. [3]  The business was taken over by Dr. Albert Barolet who placed a few advertisements for the sale of barrels over the next few years.  The public side of the company appears to leave few traces after this point.

Advertisement by Dr. Albert Barolet during 1934. [4]

Upon Dr. Albert Barolet’s death in 1969, the wines were left to his two sisters who in turn sold the wine off to the Swiss firm Henri de Villamont.  That fall, Harry Waugh, wine director at Harvey’s of Bristol, visited the Barolet mansion.  Here he found tens of thousands of binned bottles with vintages dating back to 1911.  The youngest vintages, such as 1959, were still in wood.

The Villamont firm agreed to a major auction with Christie’s in order to determine the market pricing.  The bottles were unlabeled so new labels had to be created.  The Dr. Barolet wines continued to be sold after the first Christie’s auction in 1969.  According to Michael Broadbent’s notes, there was at least a second tranche released which had been recorked by de Villamont.

Local Sales of Dr. Barolet Wines

Dr. Barolet Wines offered at MacArthur Liquors’ Grand Opening, May 7, 1972. [5]

The wines were also available in the Washington, DC area beginning in 1972.  The pricing at MacArthur Liquors puts them in the range of the then recently released wines of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti.  In reviewing two distinct periods of advertisements by Woodley Discount Wines & Spirits, also of Washington, DC, we can see that the prices nearly doubled between 1972 and 1979.

  • 1928 Dr. Barolet, Pommard-Rugiens – $26.95 in 1972
  • 1928 Dr. Barolet, Pommard-Rugiens – $69.95 in 1979
  • 1929 Dr. Barolet, Beaune – $17.95 in 1972
  • 1935 Dr. Barolet, Vosne Romanee Malconsorts – $49.95 in 1979
  • 1937 Dr. Barolet, Chambolle Musigny – $39.95  in 1979
  • 1937 Dr. Barolet, Gevrey Chambertin – $18.95 in 1972
  • 1937 Dr. Barolet, Grands Echezeaux – $18.95 in 1972
  • 1937 Dr. Barolet, Grands Echezeaux – $39.95 in 1979

The Bottle

The bottle of 1928 Collection du Docteur Barolet (Henri de Villamont) Pommard-Epenots features a tan label which is both torn and stained.  It appears to have been damp at some point resulting in an awkward positioning.

The back of the bottle features two gold foil stickers, one from the auction house and one from the importer.  This particular bottle was purchased at the 2006 Acker Merrall & Condit auction of Rudy Kurniawan’s “THE Cellar”.  The 1,700 lots which were sold brought in nearly $11 million.  As the bottle came from Kurniawan’s cellar it is immediatley suspect as a fake.  The importer strip label declares the contents as “3/4 QUART” which would date the label prior to the fall of 1976 when the metric system was adopted by liquor companies in America.  It also features a spelling mistake in the statement, “IMPORTED EXCUSIVELY FOR: VINTAGE CELLARS” which appears to reference a company that did not exist in the early 1970s.  The strip label itself is found over the embossed “75 cl” at the bottom of the glass wine bottle.

The metal capsule is clearly not from the 1920s nor is the cork.  The cork has some age to it and could possibly originate from 1969 or later when Henri de Villamont offered a tranche of recorked bottles.  There are no marks on the sides of the cork but the top does bear a circle with “F.S.” inside of it.

Detecting whether the wine in the bottle was blended by Rudy Kurniawan or is the real thing is a bit of a task.  It is a long-held belief that Dr. Barolet doctored his wines.  Back in 1990, the great collector Lloyd Flatt felt the wines had either see the addition of Port or Brandy.[6]  This is echoed in the opinion of John Tilson who was told Cognac was added to the barrels.

When I saw the mark on the cork, a particular phrase came to mind which is the exact same phrase that occured to my friend.  After I showed him my various pictures of the bottle, labels, and then the cork he quipped, “Fake Sh*t.”


[1] COLLECTION DU DOCTEUR BAROLET. Christie’s Fine and Rare Wines, Sale #1206, New York, 19 March 2003.

[2] “Gargantua aux Hospices de Beaune” published by Arthur Barolet et Fils. FR212316101__menus__M_III_01906. Bibliotheque municipale de Dijon.

[3] Le Progrès de la Côte-d’Or : journal politique. Dijon. 20 November 1931. Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Droit, économie, politique, JO 88353 URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb32844000t

[4] Le Progrès de la Côte-d’Or : journal politique. Dijon. 12 August 1934. Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Droit, économie, politique, JO 88353. URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb32844000t

[5] Grand Opening advertisement for Addy Bassin’s MacArthur Liquors.  May 7, 1972.  The Sunday Star.

[6] Berger, Dan. “At New Orleans Tasting, Everyone Raised a Glass to Vintage Burgundies”. May 3, 1990.  The Los Angeles Times.

[7] Tilson, John. “THE SORDID STORY OF WINE MANIPULATION & WINE FRAUD COVERING OVER 40 YEARS OF TASTING OLD WINES”. The Underground Wineletter. URL: https://www.undergroundwineletter.com/2012/01/the-sordid-story-of-wine-manipulation-wine-fraud-covering-over-40-years-of-tasting-old-wines/