Oh no, Petra... not the Petrus!
As if divorcing the F1 heiress wasn’t tough enough, a mystery fault puts James Stunt’s £16m wine cellar at risk
HE’S already going through a tough time thanks to his acrimonious divorce battle with Formula 1 heiress Petra Ecclestone.
And now James Stunt has been received a fresh blow – as his prized £16 million wine collection has been put at risk by a mystery mishap that caused the state-of-the-art system designed to keep it under the perfect conditions to fail.
The 25-year-old tycoon is said to be ‘alarmed’ by the incident at the £88million mansion he shared with Petra in Los Angeles.
Despite being a teetotaller, Mr Stunt has an extensive cellar, including what’s believed to be America’s largest collection of claret from the exclusive Petrus estate, priced around £4,000 a bottle.
His collection is kept in a climatecontrolled vault in the vast property, which is the largest single home in Hollywood. But in a freak accident the electricity supply maintaining those perfect conditions was interrupted.
‘James has been alarmed by the incident and is telling friends he’s worried about the wine,’ a source told The Mail on Sunday. ‘He is being urged to have it tested.’ Rumours swirled about the cause, but a source said: ‘It wasn’t Petra.
‘It may have been an electrical problem or a member of staff pressing the wrong switch, it’s just not clear at the moment. But it is a concern.’
Some of his wines are kept in a cabinet designed by Viscount Linley, the Queen’s nephew, while his enviable collection in Los Angeles and London also features other bottles of rare first-growth clarets, including large stocks of RomanéeConti and Le Pin wine.
Mr Stunt also has six 19th Century Chateau Lafite Rothschild wines. Other bottles from that estate and that era have been sold for up to £175,000.
Mr Stunt declined to comment on the incident, but experts said prolonged exposure to high temperatures could ruin the wine.
‘Temperature problems can destroy the value of fine wines,’ says Jörn Kleinhans, managing director of cellar management group The Sommelier Company
‘Older wines are much more prone to any adverse conditions. An old wine is like an old lady standing close to the edge of a cliff – it doesn’t take much to push her over the edge.
‘Wine is best stored at 55F (12C) with high humidity. It can survive being raised to 80F (27C) for a few hours, but at 90F (32C) you’ll have damage very quickly..’
Last month, 19 days in Los Angeles were warmer than 80F, including five days that topped 90F.
However Paul LaRussa, founder of Premium Cru Wine Cellars, had a better prognosis. ‘If the cellar is below ground, away from exterior walls, and has been properly insulated, even without cooling it could take weeks or even months to become warm enough to cause damage to wine,’ he said.
‘Just because the cooling system fails it doesn’t mean that the wine will automatically be ruined.’
Mr Stunt and Ms Ecclestone bought their mansion from film producer Aaron Spelling’s widow Candy for £50million in 2011, the same year they married.
They are currently going through a bitter battle over their £5billion fortune, which could be the biggest divorce settlement in celebrity history.
A full hearing has been scheduled for this month.
MISHAP: James and Petra and, below, their £88million LA home. Left: A 1982 Petrus grand cru