The next time you’re at a restaurant gawking at the hefty prices on the wine list, spare a thought: they’re most probably nowhere near the prices of the top 10 most expensive bottles of wine. That should make your choice a little easier.
10. 2005 Chateau Petrus
Sold: US$3176 per bottle
Take a number and get in line for the most hyped Bordeaux vintage in recent memory.
9. 2003 Romanée Conti
Sold: US$4,650 per bottle
There is tremendous competition to snare bottles from this, DRC’s most exalted vineyard. Jamie Wolff, partner in Chambers Street Wines and Spirits, advises that you can’t just walk off the street with your credit card expecting to buy a bottle, however. “There’s not a lot to go around. They’re for my loyal customers.”
8. 1941 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
Sold: Zachys LA auction, October 2004, US$24,675 per bottle.
Francis Ford Coppola keeps one of these (empty) on top of his refrigerator. “It was one of the best I’d ever had,” he said about the wine, which set the record for a Californian. And how did it taste? “There is a signature violet and rose petal aroma that completes this amazingly well-preserved, robust wine that had just finished fermentation at the time of Pearl Harbor.”
7. 1934 DRC Romanée Conti
Sold: Hart Davis Hart, Chicago, June 2006, US$20,145 per bottle
The DRC Duvault-Blochet is a 1er Cru wine from grand cru grapes, and there were only three vintages ever made: 1934, 1999 and 2002. Driving the price up even further on this rare wine was a pre-auction tasting note from Allen Meadows (aka The Burghound) and a score of 99, giving the stunning wine impeccable credentials.
6. 1978 Montrachet Domaine de la Romanée Conti
Sold: Sotheby’s, New York, 2001, US$23,929 per bottle
As winesearcher.com shows, you can grab the 1978 for $6000 at Park Avenue Wine & Spirits. It remains a mystery why this went for so much money during the 2001 slump, even if it is the only white wine property from DRC in a very good year. Be warned: Much bottle variation is reported on this gorgeous wine in this particular vintage, from dreary to sublime.
5. 1945 Château Mouton-Rothschild
Sold: Christie’s Los Angeles, September 2006, US$28,750 per bottle (a 6 magnum case was bought for US$345,000)
Michael Broadbent waxed poetic about this vintage, summing it up as “a glorious mouthful.” By his account, 1945 was one of the best vintages in the last century. During that year, however, the Mouton was classified as a second growth, not as the first it is today. It has been described as youthful and powerful.
4. 1947 Cheval Blanc (three-litre bottle)
Sold: Vinfolio, San Francisco, July 2006, US$33,781.25 per 750 ml bottle (US$135,125 for the three-litre bottle)
The St Emilion property Cheval Blanc contains a hefty dose of difficult-to-ripen Cabernet Franc grapes. However, the year 1947 was hot and dry. According to the head of Christie’s wine auction department, Michael Broadbent, it’s still a brawny mouthful.
3. 1951 Penfolds Grange Hermitage
Sold: May 2004, Melbourne, Australia, AU$50,200
This is winemaker Max Schubert’s bold experiment that put Australian Shiraz on the map. His boss was less than charmed by the first few vintages. Nevertheless, Schubert continued to make the wine, eventually winning over his hard-to-please employer, as well as the rest of the world.
2. 1787 Château d’Yquem
Sold: February 2006, Antique Wine Company, London, US$100,000
Those worshiping sweet wines made from Chenin Blanc often scorn the most famous of all stickies, Chateau d’Yquem, made from semillon. However, it’s hard to question its auction performance.
1. 1787 Château Lafitte
Sold: December 1985, Christie’s, London, US$156,450
After Christopher Forbes outbid Marvin Shanken, publisher of the Wine Spectator, he brought this bottle back to Forbes Collection on 5th Avenue. Though its origin has been debated (it was believed to belong to the estate of Thomas Jefferson), it remains the world auction record holder for a bottle of wine.