We read with envy the numerous accounts of rare, high-end wines sold in the marketplace. Collectors enter into bidding frenzies to acquire wines from highly rated wineries and highly rated vintages. However, for most of us 99 percenters, after we read of these wines changing hands amongst a few rich collectors, we never hear of them again until the next sale.
Here’s the rub: investors in high-end wines typically seek out trophy wines for bragging rights, not imbibing rights. Rarely are bottles of older vintages of highly regarded wines ever opened for the sheer pleasure and enjoyment such wines afford. Rather, they sit in an expensive temperature-controlled underground cellar, simply on display as trophies.
There is a consensus amongst those in the wine trade that the rarer the wine, the less likely it will ever be consumed. It will merely make the rounds of auction houses, garnering escalating prices with each passage of ownership.
With this thought in mind, I’ve decided to present a tally, and brief narrative, of the 10 most expensive wines ever sold – to date.
Note: I’ve written in greater depth on a few of these wines. I annotated them as the “Focus of a Previous Column (FPC).” For copies of these columns, please email me.
10. 1947 Château Cheval Blanc. Talk about bragging rights. This imperial-size bottle Bordeaux, the equivalent of eight standard bottles, was purchased at a Christie’s auction in 2010. This size bottle will surely impress friends and family. Price: $304,375, equivalent to $38,047 per bottle and $7,609 per each of the 40-glass capacity. Just enough for a (large) dinner party.
9. 1951 Penfolds Grange Hermitage. A highly regarded, and rare, Australian wine. Who would think a Shiraz could command such high prices in every vintage? There are purported to be less than 20 bottles remaining. Price: $38,420/bottle; $7,684/glass.
8. 1945 Château Mouton Rothschild (FPC). One of the most highly regarded vintages from one of the most highly regarded estates in Bordeaux, this wine was sold at auction last May from the cellar of world-famous collector Bill Koch. The astounding price was $34,350 for each of the 10 bottles auctioned. But that’s not the highest price ever paid. In 2007, an anonymous bidder paid significantly more for a jeroboam bottle (equivalent to six standard bottles). Price: a whopping $310,700 or $51,792 per equivalent bottle. That’s $10,358 per glass, if you’re ever in a position to enjoy it.
7. 1992 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon. One of the most famous wines in the world, this Napa cult wine is a bit of an outlier, as this imperial size bottle is significantly younger than many of the other wines on my list. Sold in 2000 at the famous Napa Valley Wine Auction, a perennial showcase of one-percenters vying for bragging rights, the bidding frenzy amped up the winning bid to $500,000, the most ever paid anywhere, anytime for a single bottle of wine. Price: $62,500/equivalent standard bottle; $12,500/glass. If you went shopping for a single standard bottle today, it would set you back $8,500 to $10,000, still in the one-percenter stratosphere.
6. 1811 Château d’Yquem (FPC). This is where we cross the threshold into high stakes bragging rights. The lofty standard bottle prices of the previous four bottles are far surpassed by the remaining wines in my tally. Beginning with this dessert wine, the most expensive white wine ever sold, prices are now in the affordability range of only the top end of the top one-percenters.
This French producer in the Sauterne region limits production to miniscule levels, even foregoing production in vintages not meeting its strict criteria. And prices reflect this. In 2011, an Indonesian restaurateur purchased this half bottle, one of only ten offered for sale that year. His plan was to display the bottle behind bulletproof glass in his wine bar, waiting for a special occasion to open and enjoy it. Price: $117,000 or $23,400 per glass.
Next week, the top five. Can it get crazier than wines six through ten? Yes, it can.
Nick Antonaccio is a 40-year Pleasantville resident. For over 20 years he has conducted numerous wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member of the Wine Media Guild of wine writers. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sharingwine.