Five Famous Chateaus and Their Distinctive Vintage
Wine research pioneer Meynard Amerine once said “Drink wine, not labels.” And there is a lot of truth to that. When it comes to the enjoyment of wine, there is no better judge than one’s own palate. But it also cannot be denied that there are certain names in the world of fine wine that make pulses quicken simply because they have historically produced beautiful wines that have stood the test of time. The First Growth wines of Bordeaux are among those names. Bordeaux’s first growths have a long history dating back to hundreds of years, providing a colorful backdrop to their exquisite wines. These are the most expensive and sought after wines in the whole world.
“I have discovered the wines of Chateau Lafite to be a delicious, generous cordial, comparable to the ambrosia of the Gods of Olympus.” – Marechal de Richelieu (1755)
Apparently Richelieu was not alone in his sentiment. During the classification of Bordeaux in 1855, this Chateau was given first place among the premier crus. It continues to be the favored Chateau in auctions today. The actual structure is a 16th century manor and the vineyard is one of the largest in the Medoc with close to 300 acres of land. This Chateau produces close to 50,000 cases of wine annually and has the world’s most expensive standard bottle of wine.
It’s Chateau Lafite 1787 was bought by Publisher Malcolm Forbes in 1985 for USD 160,000. The bottle was believed to have been from the collection of the late American President Thomas Jefferson’s private cellar.
In fine wine circles, Margaux is known to be the most “seductive” of the communal appellation of the Haut-Medoc with its deep ruby red, structured, silky and aromatic wines. And in this appellation, Chateau Margaux is the most important wine estate. American president Thomas Jefferson, during his visit to Bordeaux in 1787, singled out this Chateau as one of the “four vineyards of first quality.”
Today, more than 30,000 cases of wine are produced here annually. And it continues to create wines that are enjoyed by revered heads of states and royalty because of its extraordinary finesse and aromatic complexity.
Back in 1989, New York wine merchant William Sokolin, assessed the value of a 1987 bottle of Château Margaux at $500,000 and was ready to put it up for auction. Unfortunately, the bottle never got sold. Sokolin took it to dinner with him one evening at the Four Seasons and a waiter accidentally knocked it over. The bottle smashed into tiny pieces. Sokolin was later on paid $225,000 by his insurance firm, making it the “most expensive bottle never sold.”
This famously long-lived first growth in the Medoc originally got its name from the square tower that was once its line of defense against pirates. Their wines, just like most of the Bordeaux first growths, started making its appearance in auctions at London Coffee Houses in the early 18th century. Modernisation took place in its property with the installation of “controversial” stainless steel tanks as fermentation vessels in time for its 1964 vintage. Ownership passed hands several times over until 1993, when majority of its shares was sold to French businessman Francois Pinault.
Currently, its estate has 190 acres of vineyards and has an average annual production of 30,000 cases.
Latour is a consistent critics favorite. Its 1982 vintage scored a perfect 100 from Robert Parker. “…the 1982 Latour has been the most opulent, flamboyant, and precocious of the northern Medocs… The concentration remains remarkable, and the wine is a full-bodied, exuberant, rich, classic Pauillac in its aromatic and flavor profiles.” (excerpt from Wine Advocate #183 June 2009).
This Chateau is the most famous property in the Graves district of Bordeaux. Haut Brion is known for both its red and white wines and has a special reputation for being one of the first wines to be served to guests at the royal table of English King Charles II.
London diarist Samuel Pepys was said to have recorded in April 1663 that he “drank a sort of French wine called Ho Bryen that hath a good and most particular taste I never met with.”
Due to its reputation, Haut Brion was the only non-Medoc Chateau that was included in the famous 1855 classification of Bordeaux wines. It currently has 111 acres of vineyards with an average production of 13,000 cases.
In 2013, Decanter named Chateau Haut Brion Blanc 1989 as one of its legends.
“Haut-Brion Blanc has always been a wine of considerable power and longevity; its scarcity, and the fact that it is a white wine produced by the sole first growth in the Graves, make it much sought after by collectors.”
This Chateau is one of the most important estates in Pauillac and was originally a part of the Lafite estate. It became a separate entity in the middle of the 18th century under the ownership of the De Brane family.
Mouton-Rotschild is known not only for its superb wines but also for its specially designed labels from artists such as Dali, Picasso and Miro.
Among its greatest wines is its 1945 vintage, which is considered by critics as one of the “immortal wines” of the century.
A jeroboam from this vintage was sold to an anonymous bidder in 1997 at Christie’s London for $114,614. This pegs the price of a regular-sized wine bottle to almost $23,000- considered to be one of the most expensive bottles of wine in history.
The Asian wine market’s interest in fine wines such as those mentioned above is growing by the minute. More and more wine enthusiasts and collectors are finding themselves with these prized possessions in their personal collection. To ensure that these vintages are kept in the most ideal conditions, Singapore Wine Vault (SGWV) offers the largest, temperature controlled wine storage facility in South East Asia. Situated along Singapore’s Fishery Port Road, it has over 750,000 feet of storage that is especially equipped to hold 10 million wine bottles. Wine collectors may also have their own specially designed private wine cellars at The Drôme, a section dedicated to clients who want to customize their own cellars to their own specifications.