Given a sudden windfall of plenty of cash these are some of the wines I would love to have a chance to try before my time comes to an end. The following wines are some of the most expensive wines in the world and some of the most sought after by wealthy wine connoisseurs.
Château Cheval Blanc 1er Grand Cru classé A, Saint-Emilion
Château Cheval Blanc is located in the commune of Saint-Emilion, but borders on Pomerol in Bordeaux and has 39 hectares of land divided into 45 plots. The estate has the same configuration as in 1871, and the current area corresponds over 90% to that in 1911. Archives show that vines have been grown at Cheval Blanc at least as far back as the 15th century and the estate has only really changed hands once in over 150 years.
Cheval Blanc was able to realise its greatest dream in the 1880s, when it began to be considered on a par with the first growths of the Médoc by the wine trade and connoisseurs. By the late 19th century, Cheval Blanc was in the same price bracket as Margaux, Latour, Lafite, and Haut-Brion in Paris and London auction houses.
What makes Cheval Blanc so unusual is three main soil types – fine textured with clay, more coarsely textured with gravel, and large gravel with sand . The estate is planted to 49% Cabernet Franc, 47% Merlot, and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes grown on clay soil are powerful with velvety tannin, while the ones from gravel soil are more aromatic and elegant. A blend of both results in a wine that is both powerful and elegant with expressive aromatics as well as the complexity of the greatest wines. The average age of the vines is 42 years, but the oldest plots go back to 1920.
Cheval Blanc obtained the highest possible distinction in the first classification of Saint-Emilion wines in 1954: Premier Grand Cru Classé "A". This top rank was confirmed in every following classification in each subsequent decade. Cheval Blanc became a member of the exclusive "Club of 9" comprising the first growths of Bordeaux.
Château Pétrus, Pomerol
Pétrus, one of the world`s rarest and most expensive wines was virtually unheard of 30 years ago and it was only when the Moueix family bought a half share in the property in 1962 that the estate's wine became known for their world class standard. Pétrus is planted with 95% Merlot and is now under the direction of Christian Moueix and oenologist, Jean Claude Berrouet.
The 11.4 hectare vineyard is located on a plateau on the highest part of Pomerol in the far east of the appellation. The topsoil and the subsoil at Pétrus is almost all clay (in neigbouring properties the soil is a mixture of gravel-sand or clay-sand) and Merlot grows well in this soil.
The vines are unusually old and are only replanted after they reach 70 years of age. The grapes are hand harvested only in the afternoon, when the morning dew has evaporated, so as not to risk even the slightest dilution of quality. The grapes are fermented in cement vats and the wine is aged in 100% new oak barrels for 22-28 months. It is bottled unfiltered and around 4,000 cases are made a year.
Château Le Pin (Le Pin), Pomerol
Le Pin is located on the Right Bank of France’s Gironde estuary in the commune of Pomerol in the hamlet of Catusseau and it produces one of the most sought after and expensive wines in the world. Jacques Thienpont bought just 1.6 hectares of land for one million French francs in 1979 and they named their wine Le Pin after a single pine tree that shaded the property. They subsequently bought small adjacent plots of land which eventually doubled the size of Le Pin to 3 hectares. The vineyard is 92% planted to Merlot (with the remainder Cabernet Franc) and is south facing on a well-drained slope of gravel and sand. It is very low yielding (between 30 to 35 hl/hc), with hand harvesting and fermentation in stainless steel before being matured in new oak barriques for between 14 and 18 months. The estate produces just 600 to 700 cases each year.
Château Lafite-Rothschild, Pauillac
Château Lafite Rothschild is owned by Baron Eric de Rothschild and it is one of the largest and most renowned wine estates in the Médoc.
The vineyards are at at the northern edge of the Pauillac appellation, just below the boundary with St. Estephe. The Rothschilds bought the property in 1866, but this is a different part of the family from that which purchased Château Mouton-Rothschild.
The vineyards are mainly planted to Cabernet Sauvignon (71%) with the rest Merlot (25%) Cabernet Franc (3%) and Petit Verdot (1%). Grapes are hand-harvested, and vinified parcel by parcel. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel vats, after which the wine is run off into barrels, 100% new for Lafite itself, a mixture of new and one-year-old barrels for the second wine.
The Grand Vin volume varies greatly according to the vintage, but is frequently less than half the total crop, and is usually no more than 20,000 cases. Since 1994 the estate has been under the control of Charles Chevallier bringing much needed consistency in quality from vintage to vintage.
Château Mouton-Rothschild, Pauillac
Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild bought Château Brane-Mouton at auction in 1853 and the estate in Pauillac still bears his name. In 1924 Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Baron Nathaniel’s great-grandson took over the running of the estate and shortly after insists that all the wine should be bottled at the château.
After a long fight by Baron Philippe, Château Mouton Rothschild achieves the status of Premier Cru Classé (Classified First Growth) in 1973 of which it had been unfairly deprived in the 1855 classification, following a decree signed by Jacques Chirac, then Minister of Agriculture.
Château Latour, Pauillac
The history of Château Latour dates back at least to the 14th century, even though the vineyards for which it is now known were not fully established until the 17th century.
The 78 hectare estate is located at the southern edge of Pauillac, bordering the St. Julien vineyards of Ch. Léoville Las Case. Cabernet Sauvignon accoubts for 80% of the vineyards, with Merlot (18%) and Cabernet Franc/Petit Verdot the remaining 2%.
It produces 3 wines: the Grand Vin, which always comes from the vines immediately surrounding the château, known as L’Enclos; Les Forts de Latour, the second wine, created in 1966, and Pauillac de Latour, usually the product of young vines. The second wine, Les Forts de Latour, always comes from a distinct location, rather than simply being the vats rejected as not quite worthy of inclusion in Latour itself, so it has its own distinct identity.
The winemakers only select the healthiest fruit, total de-stemming, and separate tanks for each parcel of vines. A three-week long maceration is followed by malolactic fermentation in vats before the chosen wine is run off into barrels, 100% new, for ageing. The wine destined to become Les Forts de Latour is aged in 50% new oak and 50% one-year-old barrels.
Château Margaux 1er Cru Classé, Margaux
In its current form Château Margaux was built in the early 19th Century. In the 19th and early 20th century changing ownership for the estate meant that the quality of some vintages was far from perfect, but in 1977 it was bought by André Mentzenopoulos, Greek by birth but who had lived in France since 1958 and the fortunes of Margaux changed dramatically. André died in 1980 but his daughter, Corinne took over with winemaker Paul Pontallier to oversee the production.
The estate has 82 hectares of vineyards, with 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and the remainder Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Unusually in Margaux, the estate produces the white wine, Pavillon Blanc, from 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Fermentation takes place in oak vats, and ageing for Château Margaux is in 100% new barrels for 22 months.
Château Haut-Brion, 1er Cru Classé, Pessac
Of the five Bordeuax first growths, Château Haut-Brion is the only estate in the Pessac-Léognan AOC. The estate dates back to April 1525 when Jean de Pontac married Jeanne de Bellon, the daughter of the mayor of Libourne and seigneur of Hault-Brion, who brought to him in her dowry the land and the construction of the château itself was begun in 1549.
In the classifications of 1855 ahead of the International Exhibition in Paris, Château Haut-Brion was classified Premier Grand Cru, as the only estate from Graves among the three established First Growths of the Médoc. The prices of Haut-Brion in the 19th century were consistently higher than those of any other Bordeaux wine
In addition to the grand vin, Haut-Brion produces a red second wine. Formerly named Château Bahans Haut-Brion, beginning with the 2007 vintage, it was renamed Le Clarence de Haut Brion. The vineyard also produces a dry white wine named Château Haut-Brion Blanc, with a limited release of the second dry white wine, Les Plantiers du Haut-Brion, renamed La Clarté de Haut-Brion for the 2008 vintage. Since 2003, Domaine Clarence Dillon's daughter company, Clarence Dillon Wines, has also released the Bordeaux brand wine named Clarendelle.
The estate has 48 ha planted to red grapes with 45% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9.7% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot, and 2.9 ha (7.1 acres) to white grape varieties with 53% Sémillon and 47% Sauvignon blanc.
Harvesting takes place by hand and each parcel is worked by the same team of workers to increase the teams' familiarity with the individual vines. The harvest of the white grapes takes place very early due to the proximity to the city of Bordeaux which results in a warmer microclimate and thus earlier ripening. The white grapes are picked as late as possible, sorted and then pneumatically pressed in whole bunches. There is no skin contact and fermentation takes place in oak barrels with indigenous yeast After sorting in the field, the red grapes are destemmed, crushed and moved to a special double-tank with fermentation taking place in the top and malolactic fermentation in the bottom, using gravity to move the wine. Previously ageing took place in 100% new oak casks lasting 18 months. This has been reduced to 35% new casks and wine destined for the second wine Le Clarence is aged in 25% new oak. The white wine is aged in 40-45% new oak for 10–12 months
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC)
Domaine de la Romanée Conti, DRC or just the Domaine is owned by the de Villaine and Leroy families. The De Villaine's are related to Jacques-Marie Duvault Blochet who bought the vineyard of La Romanée Conti in 1869. The Leroy Family acquired the shares of the relatives of Duvault-Blochet in 1942.
DRC has 25 hectares of Grand Cru vineyards and is the largest owner of each of them, including the 1.8 ha monopole La Romanée Conti, La Tâche and holdings in the grand crus of Romanée St Vivant, Grands-Echezeaux and Echezeaux as well as close to half of the Richebourg AOC.
The domaine uses whole clusters, with no destemming and the vineyards produce very low yields. Ancestor Jacques-Marie Duvault Blochet was an advocate of harvesting late in order to ensure optimum ripeness, a philosophy to which his descendants adhere today.
Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia
In the 1920's the Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta dreamt of creating a top class Bordeaux style red wine, “…the origins of my experiment date back to the years between 1921 and 1925 when, as a student in Pisa and often a guest of the Salviati Dukes in Migliarino, I drank a wine produced from one of their vineyards…which had the same unmistakable “bouquet” as an aged Bordeaux….”
In the 1940s, having settled with his wife Clarice on the Tenuta San Guido on the Tyrrhenian coast, he experimented with several French grape varieties (whose cuttings he had recovered from the estate of the Dukes Salviati in Migliarino) and concluded that the Cabernet had "the bouquet I was looking for."
Using Cabernet Sauvignon in Tuscan and Piedmont was unusual as the traditional grapes of the region were Sangiovese and Nebbiolo but the gravely vineyard sites in Tuscany impart the same characteristics on Sassicaia as Graves in Bordeaux.
The Marchese's first vintages were not warmly received and from 1948 to 1967, Sassicaia remained a strictly private affair, only to be consumed at Tenuta San Guido. Each year, a few cases were stored to age in the Castiglioncello di Bolgheri cellar and the Marchese soon realised that by ageing the wine it improved considerably. It was not until 1968 that Sassicaia was first commercially released.
Vega Sicilia Unico
Vega Sicilia, located to the east of the town of Valladolid in Ribera del Duero, is Spain's most prestigious wine estate. It was founded in 1864 by Don Eloy Lecanda y Chaves, who arrived from Bordeaux with cuttings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec and planted them together with Tinto Fino.
Don Eloy Lecanda y Chaves left no known written records on why he chose Vega Sicilia as his winery's name but it is thought that the word Vega refers to the green vegetation that grows along the riverbank of the Duero river and Sicilia refers to Saint Cecilia, the patron saints of musicians, after whom several villages in Castile and León are named.
It was not until the early 20th century that the winery built its international reputation under the ownership of Antonio Herrero. The Alvarez family acquired ownership in 1982 and still run the estate.
Vega Sicilia produces three different wines: the signature Unico ("unique") is the flagship. The grapes used in Unico are from some of the oldest vines in the Ribera del Duero, with mostly Tinto Fino and Tempranillo. The wine is aged 10 years before release. The Reserva Especial is bottled each year as a blend of three earlier vintages with only around 100 cases made each year. For example the 2015 release uses the 1994, 1996 and 2000 vintages. Valbuena 5° is made from younger vines, and in years when Unico is not produced grapes normally destined for Unico will go into Valbuena. It is only released after 5 years ageing and is made mostly of Tempranillo, with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Penfolds Grange, South Australia
Penfolds Grange had it first vintage in 1951 by winemaker Max Schubert but the first commercial release came a year late in 1952. Until the 1989 vintage it was labelled Penfolds Grange Hermitage. The name "Hermitage" was removed with the 1990 vintage, following objections by the European Union authorities to the use of a French place-name.
The wine is usually a multi-district blend using grapes grown in South Australia including the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, McLaren Vale and Magill Estate. It is primarily Shiraz with a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon (usually less than 8%).
Grange was first made on an experimental basis by Max Schubert, while he was employed by Penfolds Wines. Having toured Europe in 1950, Schubert implemented wine-making techniques observed in Bordeaux upon his return Negative reviews by wine critics and poor commercial prospects for the wine led Penfolds management in 1957 to forbid Schubert from producing Penfolds Grange, but Schubert persisted in secret through 1959. As the wines aged their true value came to be appreciated, and in 1960 the management instructed Schubert to restart production, oblivious to the fact that Schubert had never stopped production and had not missed a vintage.
The 1955 vintage was submitted to competitions beginning in 1962, and over the years has won more than 50 gold medals. The vintage of 1971 won first prize in Shiraz at the Wine Olympics in Paris. The 1990 vintage was named 'Wine of the Year' by the Wine Spectator magazine in 1995, which later rated the 1998 vintage 99 points out of a possible 100.
Screaming Eagle, Oakville, Napa Valley, California
Screaming Eagle, founded in 1992 and owned by Jean Philips, is one of the original Californian "cult wines" with only 400-750 cases made each year. Phillips originally bought the 57 acre Oakville vineyard in 1986 which was planted to a mix of varieties, most of which Phillips sold to various Napa wineries except the 1 acre plot of around 80 vines of Cabernet Sauvignon. She took her home-made Cabernet Sauvignon based wine made in a plastic trash can to Robert Mondavi. They told her bottle it and the rest is history.
She hired Richard Peterson as a consultant, and subsequently met Peterson's daughter, Heidi Peterson Barrett, who became Screaming Eagle's first winemaker. The entire vineyard was replanted in 1995 to three varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Cabernet Franc. The 1992 vintage, released in 1995, through a combination of very low production numbers and highly positive reviews (wine critic Robert Parker awarded the wine 99 points) resulted in Screaming Eagle becoming one of the most celebrated and expensive wines in the Napa Valley.
On March 17, 2006 the estate was sold to Stanley Kroenke and Charles Banks, after Phillips received an offer she couldn't refuse. In April 2009, Charles Banks left Screaming Eagle leaving Stan Kroenke as the sole owner.
Screaming Eagle's 100% Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard near Oakville is ideally situated. The soil is virtually a rock pile on a gentle, west-facing slope east of the Napa River. Drainage and exposure are excellent. The vineyard is at a point in the Napa valley where the weather is hot enough during the day to ripen Cabernet Sauvignon perfectly, but the grapes are cooled by the northerly afternoon breezes from the San Pablo Bay.
Opus One, St. Helena, Napa Valley, California
Château Mouton Rothschild winemaker Lucien Sionneau and Robert Mondavi’s son Timothy made the partnership’s first vintage at the Robert Mondavi Winery in 1979. The following year the partners officially announced their joint venture. In 1981 a single case of the joint venture wine sold for $24,000 at the first Napa Valley Wine Auction – the highest price ever paid for a California wine. The partners agreed to choose a name of Latin origin for the joint venture, allowing for easy recognition in both English and French. Baron Philippe announced his choice, “Opus,” a musical expression denoting the first masterwork of a composer. Two days later he proposed an additional word: “Opus One”.
The 1979 and 1980 vintages were simultaneously unveiled in 1984 as Opus One’s first release. Constellation Brands purchased Robert Mondavi Corp. and assumed 50% ownership of Opus One in 2005. The current 2012 vintage is composed of Cabernet Sauvignon 79%, Cabernet Franc 7%, Petit Verdot 6%, Merlot 6%, and Malbec