War of the Wines: Five Vintages That Sold for Millions
“Wine connects man and nature and time in a way nothing else does. In a bottle of wine you have an identity created by a craftsman with materials at his disposal, which include the weather. That can’t be replicated and it stays alive for centuries.”
These fighting words come straight from the horse’s mouth: Hugh Johnson, OBE, the world’s best selling wine writer, whose guidebooks have helped perpetuate a wine lifestyle. In May 2013, sales of his personal wine collection generated over 100,000 GBP. Accumulated throughout the course of his five-decade career, some of the most prized acquisitions of Johnson’s wine cellar include three bottles of 1830 Malmseys, a magnum of Krug champagne from 1971, and a 1945 Château Latour made the summer following V Day.
While not an inconsequential amount, the proceeds of the Johnson sale seem like loose change when compared to the world’s priciest wines, some of which were featured here in the Singapore Wine Vault blog. Varied in provenance, these wines are created with the technical craftsmanship of the winery, individual artistry, and a dash of good luck.
Here are five more wines deemed so superlative in flavour, only a privileged, moneyed few can claim their presence in their personal wine vaults:
The Château Cheval Blanc 1947
One of only two wines given class A status in the Classification of Saint-Émilion wine, the Château Cheval Blanc 1947 defies stereotype: taste leaning towards port, high alcohol content, and with volatile acidity.
Region: Saint Émilion, Libournais, Bordeaux, France
Grape variety: Bordeaux blend
Tasting notes: “The huge nose of fruitcake, chocolate, leather, coffee, and Asian spices is mind-boggling. The unctuous texture and richness of sweet fruit are amazing.”—Robert Parker
Price: Average pricing for 2014 is US$11, 219 excluding taxes, but an imperial sold for US$304, 375 at a Christie’s auction in Geneva.
The Petrus 1961
Only a château by nomenclature, the 28 grape-producing acres of Petrus are managed from a two-story farmhouse. While the winery dates back to the 18th century, it was only when Madame Edmond Loubat took sole proprietorship of the estate post-World War II that Petrus became the gold standard for merlot.
Region: Pomerol, Libournais, Bordeaux, France
Grape variety: Merlot
Tasting notes: Jeannie Lin of Asian Palate says, “The wine bursts with flavors that include cloves, sweet cinnamon and dried dates.” This vintage is best to drink now, but will keep for another 10 years.
Price: Average pricing for 2014 is US$11,813 excluding taxes.
The Heidsieck & Co. Monopole Diamant Bleu 1907
What you’re paying for is history in a bottle. This vintage was salvaged in 1997 from the wreckage of the Swedish freighter Jönköping, sank by German U-boats while it was en route to the court of Tsar Nicholas II in 1916.
Region: Champagne, France
Grape variety: Champagne Blend
Tasting notes: “The wine had intense aromas of gunflint and black rifle powder mixed with a briny note like roasted oysters. Then there were notes of graham cracker, burnt lemon oil, and flamed oranges. Massive flavors of caramelized bananas, burnt citrus, and kerosene provided an extremely long, salty finish.”—Chris Hoel
Price: US$275,000 at auction, and retail at the Ritz-Carlton Moscow.
The Inglenook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1941
Here’s another vintage collected for rarity rather than taste. From 1933 to 1961, John Daniel Jr.’s visionary leadership made Inglebrook one of the world’s best producers of cabernet. Financial difficulties led to its sale, and its reputation languished, until its assets were acquired by Francis Ford Coppola for his label, Niebaum-Coppola Estate.
Region: Napa Valley, California
Grape Variety: Cabernet Sauvignon
Tasting notes: Wine Spectator calls it “dark, deep and richly flavored, seemingly capable of aging another 20 to 30 years.” Which means it’s past its peak—but remains a good icebreaker at parties.
Price: A bottle fetched US$24,675 at the Zachys LA Auction in October 2004.
Penfolds Block 42 Kalimna Cabernet Sauvignon Ampoule
How do you add more zeros to a price tag? Take a celebrated vintage and pour it into an exquisite, limited-edition package. Block 42 is renowned for being the oldest vineyard of cabernet sauvignon in the world, dating back to the 1880s. The outsized ampoule that houses it is not just a thing of beauty, but a technical marvel: made of laboratory-grade borosilicate glass, it addresses the need for wine to be stored in cool, controlled temperatures.
Region: Barossa Valley, Australia
Grape Variety: Cabernet Sauvignon
Tasting Notes: “It displays a very deep garnet-purple color and profoundly earthy / gamey aromas over black cherry preserves, crème de cassis plus scents of leather, pencil shavings, Mediterranean herbs, black truffles, underbrush and black olives.”—Lisa Perotti-Brown
Price: Average retail price is US$160,000 excluding taxes.
Having any of these bottles in your possession would of course trigger the need to preserve them with the utmost security and the best environment for wines. Cellaring them in prestigious wine storage facilities like the Singapore Wine Vault ensures that your investment remains of top quality and well-worth the money you spent on it. For serious collectors or discerning wine merchants or restaurateurs in need of secure, temperature-controlled wine storage for their rare and expensive vintages, these bottles deserve wine warehousing options tailored to their exacting specifications.