The most revered drink throughout the ages is undoubtedly wine. This drink, enjoyed by all kinds of communities and castes of people, has more variations than any other beverage. The process of making wine is as much science as it is art, and humans have been perfecting it for millenia. The basics are simple: wine is made by fermenting grapes, letting the yeast consume sugars in the fruit, which converts them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. But the devil is in the details. The taste depends on the soil and climate in which the grapes were grown, how the wine was stored, how long it aged. All these intricacies cause winemaking to be a fascinating and complex process.
The knowledge of wine production spread to Europe from an area which today is known as Georgia in Eastern Europe. The first evidence of wine production there was documented 8,000 years ago. Wine was a huge part of ancient Greece‘s culture and was consumed in great quantities in the Roman empire. It was even incorporated into christianity after the death of Jesus Christ – his blood was literally wine. This shows how important this drink was to past cultures.
In the modern world wine is a globally consumed commodity. Wine is produced in huge quantities all over the world, including the USA and many South American countries. The cultures known for producing the best quality wine unsurprisingly are also the ones that drink the most, especially the western European countries France, Italy and Spain. Thanks to globalization, the wine business is an international trade, so wine connoisseurs and casual drinkers have access to wine from all over the world in any nearby supermarket.
Despite the prospering industry with high competition, the finest and most expensive wines are bottles that were fermented from crops cultivated many years ago. The ageing process is a big part of winemaking and generally wines that can be aged (stored) the longest are considered of higher quality. We managed to track down the 10 most expensive bottles of wine ever sold. Their prices might not always be dictated by their quality alone – their perceived rarity and inflation also have a role, but taking them into account, these bottles still contain the most luxurious wines money can buy.
10. Royal DeMaria – $30.000
This bottle was produced by the Canadian winery Royal DeMaria. What‘s unique about this wine is that it‘s an ice wine. This wine gets it‘s name from it‘s production process which involves freezing the grapes on the vine before being fermented. This gives the wine a sweeter taste, which is why it is sometimes also called ‘dessert wine‘, since it goes along well with sugary treats. The winery sold a vintage bottle of this wine for $30.000 in 2006.
9. 1775 Massandra – $43,500
The next bottle comes from Massandra, an area in Crimea – which today is either Russian or Ukrainian, depending on who you ask. Anyway, this place has been well-known for it‘s winemaking for centuries. The most notable bottle they sold was in 2001. It‘s value of $43.500 comes from the fact that the crop this wine is produced from, was harvested in 1775, which makes the liquid contained in the bottle 239 years old. The wine has been ageing for 226 years, and if it stays sealed for 11 more years it will get to a nice rounded 250-year-old wine. It‘s debatable if it would still be good to drink after this period of time, but it‘s an exquisite collector‘s item nonetheless.
8. 1945 Château Mouton-Rothschild – $47,000
The vineyard that produced this bottle came to be when Nathaniel Rothschild, member of the wealthiest banking family in the world, purchased the Château Mouton near Bordeaux, France in 1853. This estate was converted into vineyards, and became one of the most respectable operations of its sort in the world. It is even mentioned in the classic James Bond films and is a known brand among luxury wine consumers. Even though this particular 1945 vintage was reserved for the château‘s owner, it was sold in an auction to a wine enthusiast who paid $47,000 for the privilege of tasting it.
7. 1787 Château d’Yquem – $100,000
Among luxury wines, most of the time red is regarded more highly than white, although the only difference in the production process is usually the color of the grape – red wine is made from red grapes and white wine from white grapes. While white wine goes well with seafood and light meals, red steals the show. This wine from the French château, a 1787 vintage of white wine showed red what for when it sold for over $100,000. The transaction itself was luxurious, too – a representative was flown in across the ocean to deliver the bottle in person.
6. 1811 Château d’Yquem – $117,000
The second wine by the prestigious Château d’Yquem. This wine was produced in 1811, 24 years after the aforementioned 1787 bottle, so why did it sell for more than the earlier one? Apparently, age isn‘t everything. The 1811 harvest at Château d’Yquem was considered to be very good, some people calling it the best white wine ever. Thanks to the fame and praise of this harvest, remaining bottles from that year still in circulation cost a hefty sum. The buyer of this bottle was sommelier Christian Vanneque, who plans to open the vintage in 2017 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his career.
5. Romanée Conti 1945 – $123,900
Only 600 bottles of this wine were made, making it extremely rare and, of course, expensive. The year it was produced was 1945, which was a really good year for premium wines, one of the major reasons being the end of the Second World War. A bottle of the vintage was bought at a Christie‘s fine-wine auction by an American collector for $123,900.
4. 1787 Château Lafite – $160,000
Not only is this bottle extremely rare and of very high quality, but it was from the personal collection of Thomas Jefferson and bore his initials. Even though the wine has spoiled due to the rudimentary bottling process of the 18th century, it still has tremendous value thanks to these connections to America‘s Founding Father. This 1787 Château Lafite was bought by Malcolm Forbes in 1985. He spent $160,000 and due to inflation it would be worth $315.000 today.
3. 1869 Château Lafite – $233,972
Yet another bottle which shows that age isn‘t everything. This vintage is 80 years younger than the wine in the previous spot. The auctioneers were stunned when this vintage that they expected to sell for around $8.000 was purchased by an anonymous Asian buyer for a sum of $233.972 after a bidding war. Apparently, Château Lafite carries a hefty premium in Asia for it‘s luxury item status.
2. 1907 Heidsieck – $275,000
This 1907 Heidsieck was part of a small collection ordered by the last tsar of Russia, Nicholas ll , who belonged to the Russian imperial family of the early 20th century. The whole collection was thought to be lost when the ship carrying it sank in 1916. Fortunately, the wreckage was discovered in 1997 and the bottles were retrieved. Each one of the batch sold for $275.000, though it‘s unlikely that it‘s even drinkable. Only a small group of people who got hold of these bottles will find out if wine ageing on the ocean floor affects the flavor.
1. 1947 Château Cheval Blanc – $304,375
The most expensive bottle of wine, a 1947 Château Cheval Blanc, has immense reputation, which carries as much weight as age. It is considered by many in the wine community to be the best Bordeaux of all time. It was bought at a Christie‘s wine auction in Geneva by an anonymous buyer for $304,375. The bottle can still easily be kept for another 50 years under normal storage conditions and still be consumed without fear of spoiling, which lets the owner save it for the most prestigious occasion.