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What The Shah Of Iran Drank…

by Stuart George

Last year BBC4’s excellent “Storyville” series showed a film about “The 2,500 year celebration of the Persian Empire”, held by the Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi 12th-16th October 1971, on the occasion of the 2,500th anniversary of the founding of the Imperial State of Iran and First Persian Empire by Cyrus the Great.

A client contacted me recently to say that they had a magnum bottle – empty, alas – of 1970 Dom Pérignon, “with (the Shah’s) ornate label on the back.”

The client told me: “My father in law was the Shah of Iran’s physician at the Mayo Clinic. While doing our Covid 19 cleaning projects, we discovered a 1970 bottle of Dom Pérignon with his ornate label on the back.”

Guests at the 1971 event included over sixty of the world’s kings, queens and presidents, including such paragons of integrity as Mobutu Sese Seko and Nicolae Ceaușescu. Queen Elizabeth was invited but Prince Philip and Princess Anne attended on her behalf.

A tent city was built at Persepolis to accommodate the guests. A film of the event was made, with Orson Welles as narrator. Maxim’s restaurant of Paris was the caterer.

There was a bit of wine, too.

The menu included Dom Pérignon Rosé 1959 (not 1970) for the official toast (great Champagne vintage); Château Haut-Brion Blanc 1964 (terrible vintage for sweet white Bordeaux but the hot summer was good for reds and dry whites); Château Lafite Rothschild 1945 (an all-time great); Moët & Chandon 1911 (another great Champagne vintage, the best between 1874 and 1921); and Musigny Comte Georges de Vogüé 1945 (great – but how did they get enough of it for over sixty guests?).

Apparently the event might have cost more than $200 million.

The empty bottle shows that the Shah retained a taste for fine wines beyond the celebrations of 1971.

However, this extravagance eventually led to a fall. The Shah was overthrown in February 1979.

About the Author

Stuart George - Mayfair-based Arden Fine Wines was founded by Stuart George in 2019. Stuart began his wine career 24 years ago working alongside the distinguished Master of Wine and Burgundy expert Anthony Hanson. A holder of the prestigious Wine & Spirit Education Trust Diploma in Wine and Spirits since 2000, Stuart has tasted vintages back to 1780. He was UK Young Wine Writer of the Year in 2003. He was winner of the 2019 Scuderia Ferrari Wine Award for “outstanding professional achievements" and of the 2020 Family Office Awards Wine Writer of the Year.

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