(Bloomberg) -- On Saturday, May 21, an extraordinary personal cellar of old and newer vintages is going on sale at Sotheby’s in New York. The more than 4,200 bottles come from Prince Robert of Luxembourg, owner of Bordeaux first growth Château Haut-Brion, his family, and his friends.

Just perusing the catalogue will stimulate the fantasies of wine collectors. The sale includes some of the most unique, priceless vino on the planet, all with perfect provenance—and you can feel virtuous no matter how many bucks you drop on any of the 818 lots. It’s being called one of the biggest charity auctions of its kind ever staged.

Prince Robert is not just funneling all proceeds to medical research through the newly established non-profit PolG Foundation, but also trying to put a spotlight on a devastating, little-known degenerative disease to spur the development of treatments, and hopefully, a cure.

His reasons are very personal and heartbreaking. Five years ago, his and his wife Princess Julie’s youngest son, Frederik, then age 14, was diagnosed with a rare PolG-related mitochondrial disease they had never heard of. (Nor, probably, have most people.) The genetic disorder robs the body’s cells of energy, which in turn eventually causes organ failure. As the couple struggled to help their son, they learned that one in 5,000 people may suffer from mitochondrial conditions, which are related to more well-known diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

For five years, their lives were turned upside down as they tracked down top medical specialists and researchers throughout the world, attended conferences, and visited laboratories. “We were in a cocoon, trying to survive,” Prince Robert says in a phone call. “When we began thinking how we could also help others and motivate serious research in a public way, I came back to what I know, wine, and ways I could use my position as a pulpit.”

As chairman and CEO of the family wine company Domaine Clarence Dillon SAS, he heads a business that began with his great-grandfather, American investment banker Clarence Dillon, who purchased Château Haut-Brion in 1935 for a modest 2,300,000 francs (the equivalent of $153,000 back then). One of the chateau’s historic owners was Talleyrand; Thomas Jefferson visited in May 1787.

The family’s next big buy, in 1983, was famous neighboring property Château La Mission Haut-Brion, just down the road. Prince Robert has expanded the empire by adding another chateau in Bordeaux, a negociant business, and even branched out with a Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris, Le Clarence.

“For the sale, I’m pretty much emptying out my cellar,” he says. “Including all the old vintages.”

He’s talking about more than 900 bottles of Haut-Brion from 1908, 1918, 1919, the decades of the ’20s, 30s, 40s, and even a jeroboam (4.5-liter bottle) of the legendary 1926 (estimated $7,500 to $12,000). There are also three lots of my favorite more recent vintage, the dense, complex 1989 (est. $20,000 to 28,000 a case).

I can personally attest to the staying power of the chateau’s old vintages. One of the greatest—and most fun—tastings I ever attended was a weekend in Texas where 49 vintages, including the 1926, and back to 1899, were poured at a black-tie event in a barn. Trust me, they go brilliantly with a cowboy stew of longhorn beef, which we dined on by candlelight while sipping Haut-Brion and sitting on hay bales.

As you can imagine, Prince Robert’s cool, dark cellar below Château Haut-Brion also includes stellar vintages of La Mission Haut-Brion and other first growths, such as the silky-textured 1928 Château Latour (est. $3,000 to $4,000), and equivalent wines like a 3-liter bottle of 1982 Petrus (est. 13,000 to $18,000). None has left Bordeaux before now.

The Board of Domaine Clarence Dillon, without Prince Robert’s participation, jumped in with unique experiences and 12-liter bottles of Haut-Brion from the great 2009 vintage.

But there’s another part of the sale story that’s about the power of solidarity and generosity.

Domaine Clarence Dillon is part of an elite group called Primum Familiae di Vini, otherwise known by its nickname, PFV. The 12 members are some of the world’s most illustrious family-owned wine estates, such as Château Mouton Rothschild, Sassicaia, Antinori, Vega Sicilia, and the Symington family’s many Port houses. They leapt in to donate, too. The Haute Couture Case and Passport, lot 776, includes one bottle from each estate from a top vintage and a special private tasting and lunch or dinner at each one (est. $75,000 to $150,000).

Over the years, Prince Robert has raised millions for many charities, and as word about the proposed sale spread to others in the wine industry, they, too, called to offer rare bottles direct from their own cellars. Château Petrus sent Imperials (6-liter bottles) from five vintages (est. $14,000 to $35,000).

Despite physical challenges, Frederik, now 20, is in on the action to raise money, designing the Mito logo for the foundation and a line of “cool, fun, comfortable” very un-Savile Row Mito clothing for sale on the foundation website.

Prince Robert is encouraged by “the mind-blowing pace at which medical research is moving because of the development of artificial intelligence and genetic discoveries.” The foundation, which already has three projects headed by well-known scientists underway, aims to foster a sense of urgency and collaboration, and will also focus on venture philanthropy, investing in companies in the bio-tech space.

Meanwhile, money is needed, and great wine is what he—and his friends—have to offer on the 21st. Every dollar goes to an important cause. You could drink to that.

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