You wouldn’t know it, but a bottle of wine can cost as much as a house. See which are the most expensive wine in the world and why.
If there is one beverage that not only improves with age but in price too – it’s wine. It can be hard to believe that fermented grape juice could be worth thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, with any prized luxury item, there is a method in the madness.
Wine has been the preferred drink for both nobles and peasants for thousands of years. The earliest evidence of wine production dates back around 4000 – 6000 BCE in Armenia. Clay jars with fermented grape residue show that humans have had a love affair with wine for millennia.
The Art of Winemaking
Over centuries people have perfected the art of winemaking through the ongoing practice of Viticulture. Today’s colossal wine industry is present in almost every country, with a global size of $326.6 Billion in 2020. In France, one of the world’s top wine producers alone produced 46.6 million hectolitres of wine.
That is a lot of grapes!
So, with all that wine flowing, several makers around the world produce the absolute best of the batch. The ‘pièce de résistance’ as the French would say. The finest wines undergo a detailed process from vine to wine bottle. And some wines fetch a steep price, to put it mildly.
Expensive wine is not only a sophisticated beverage but also a long-term investment opportunity for the keen investor. Vintage wines bought at an auction have the potential to appreciate exponentially depending on the holding period.
The Best of the Best Wine
We’ll explore what is the most expensive wine in the world and what makes them the best of the best.
- What determines the value of wine?
- Why invest in expensive wine?
- What are the most expensive wines in the world?
But first, how is expensive wine valued and why?
What Determines the Value of Wine?
If you’re thinking about owning expensive wine, knowing how wine is valued will help when you’re at the auction house.
There are several things wine collectors need to consider when evaluating a vintage wine. All stages in the wine-making process have an impact on its value, including the perceived value from experts and aficionados.
Here are some factors to consider:
1. Where the wine is made:
A significant factor in the value of the most expensive wine comes from the region that produces the wine. Some famous regions in France, such as Bordeaux or the Rhône Valley, command top dollar for their wines. Other famous winemaking regions include Napa Valley in California, La Rioja in Spain, and Stellenbosch in South Africa.
2. The winemaking process:
When it comes to wine, what improves the value of the end product is the various techniques and processes used. A harvest of organic grapes processed by hand has the potential to produce expensive wine bottles over the use of machine harvests. Other elements such as environment and running cost play a role too. The wine produced in reserve barrels for aging automatically has a higher value than non-reserve wines.
3. The bottling and packaging:
The quality of wine bottles used to store the wine is another crucial factor. Furthermore, a wine that has remained in the same bottle with no label changes fetches a steeper valuation. The condition of the bottles and labels can show experts how good the storage conditions were. Wine judges have valued wine on the condition of the labels alone.
4. Wine storage:
Wine exists due to the storage process. After production, wine is placed in barrels and stored for several months to several years before bottling. Wine must be stored in a climate-controlled facility to improve taste and longevity. Keeping records of storage conditions and ownership history all add to the value of wine. The longer the wine ages, the higher its value.
5. Number of bottles produced:
Any valuable item comes down to scarcity. The number of bottles a vineyard produces will affect the value of the wine. Except for a rare bottle, well-preserved cases of rare wines can fetch a higher value than single bottles.
6. Critic scores and branding:
High scores from top wine critics add to the value of a wine. Age, color, aroma, and taste play a vital role in determining the quality of a wine. A consistent high score rating can increase the investment grade of wine and send an already high price into the stratosphere.
Why Invest in Expensive Wine?
Whether you are at home with a good book or attending an evening soiree, wine suits almost any occasion. People love the taste of wine and the good times that follow, but why invest in it?
When you think about investment, the stock market and property come to mind. Wine, or any beverage for that matter, does not appear to be something valued further than the dopamine hit in our brains.
It comes down to numerous aspects. We have seen earlier that many factors affect the cost of wine. But there is another aspect: perceived value.
When talking about the luxury market, the price a consumer will pay is not only the production of the item but the story behind it. Buying high-end art, rare coins, or vintage wine all have a story to tell. Stories give these inanimate objects meaning, and this meaning translates into a perceived value. The highest prices are found around the rarest wines with the best stories.
Many Aspects to Owning Wine
Vintage wine has shown to be a wise investment depending on what you buy and how you store it. Some aspects which make owning wine a good investment include:
- High ROI: the return on investment can be huge. Some experts compare investing in wine to the stock market, and over 25 years saw more exponential value in fine wine.
- A Growing Market: people all over the globe drink wine. New wine regions enter the market every year to meet the demand
- Retaining Value: even if the economy goes pear-shaped, vintage wine retain its value against inflation and economic downturns
Everyone has their reasons to invest in wine, and anybody can get involved. So, wine is not only good to drink, but it can also make you some money in the long term.
With that said, if you’re a private collector or just a fan of great vintage wine, let’s have a look at the most expensive wines of all time.
What Is the Most Expensive Wine in the World?
You might be wondering which are the most expensive wines on the market today. Well, many vineyards are producing exceptional wine, but the competition is fierce.
Below is a list of the 11 most expensive wines in the world. Each wine has a huge price tag and a story to tell. Let’s uncork and pour in.
11. Cheval Blanc St-Emilion 1947
1947 is one of the great vintages in red wine history. As the temperature for that year was hotter than usual, the grapes had a higher sugar content. Mechanical temperature controls had not been invented yet, so winemakers had trouble controlling the fermentation process.
Luckily, it all worked out in the end. The residual sugar kept the wine from getting too dry. The Cheval Blanc St-Emilion has a “Porty” flavor and a richness unlike other Bordeaux’s. The texture is said to be luxurious and alluring. Few winemakers have come close to the flavor of this wine, making it a rare item among collectors.
10. Château Lafite 1787
Chateau Lafite is a premier wine, originally owned by the Rothchild family. These particular bottles were discovered in a Paris cellar and said to have once belonged to US president Thomas Jefferson. His initials, TJ, can be seen engraved on the bottles.
Publisher Malcolm Forbes purchased the wine in 1985, only to discover that the cork dried out due to poor lighting from his display cabinet. The wine inside was compromised and is effectively worthless now. Nonetheless, it’s still one of the most valuable wines from one of the most prestigious winemakers of all time.
9. Ampoule from Penfolds 2004
The new edition Ampoule from Penfolds is a 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon produced in South Australia. What sets Ampoule apart from other expensive wines is the bottling process uses no cork or screw cap. Breaking off the end of the glass container is the only way to open the bottle.
The Ampoule is one of the most expensive wines sold directly from a winery. Only 12 exist, and each Ampoule glass vessel is a work of art. This adds to the collector’s value not just for the wine but for the casing too.
8. Châteaux Margaux 1787
Claimed to be the most expensive unsold wine, the Chateau Margaux has a sad story. Another claimed possession of president Thomas Jefferson, the 1787 vintage was owned by William Sokolin.
At a Four Seasons Hotel, a waiter bumped against the table where the bottle sat. The bottle shattered in pieces on the floor. William Solokin received a payout from the insurance company but never had the chance to taste the 200-year-old wine.
7. Châteaux Lafite 1869
Here we have another Chateau Lafite from the 1869 vintage. The huge sale was from an auction in Hong Kong bought by an anonymous buyer. Chateau Lafite is particularly rare in Asia.
6. Shipwrecked 1907 Heidsieck
If you’re looking for a wine with a story, here’s one: The Heidsieck 1907 is champagne intended for the then Tsar of Russia Nicholas II. In 1916, a ship carrying the wine was torpedoed by a German submarine, sinking to the bottom of the sea.
80 years later, the shipwreck was discovered with the wine completely intact due to the sub-zero temperatures and lack of sunlight. Wine expert Chris Hoel tasted the wine, stating the wine had interesting tastes, from flaming orange and burnt lemon oil to a salty, gun-powder scent.
5. Cheval Blanc 1947
The Cheval Blanc 1947 is considered by many to be the best Bordeaux. Chateaux Cheval Blanc is one of the top winemakers, awarded the coveted Premier Grand Cru Classe (A) in 2012.
4. Jeroboam of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1945
Chateau Mouton-Rothschild is under the ownership of one of the world’s wealthiest families. Nathaniel Rothschild of the legendary Rothschild family bought the vineyard in 1853, producing some of the most expensive wines 150 years later.
The bottle label shows a ‘V’ emblem, representing the victory of the allied forces in the second world war. Additionally, 1945 is one of the best vintages in over 100 years. The taste includes hints of dried cherries and raspberry, and the nose has aromas of dry pine needles, mint, and vanilla.
3. The Setting Wines by Alexander Valley 2015
The Setting Wines is a Cabernet Sauvignon produced by award-winning winemaker Jesse Katz. These wines were auctioned off for charity in 2017 and fetched a whopping $350,000.
2. Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon 1992
The second most expensive wine on our list and this sensational vintage aged in 60% new oak barrels come from Oakville, North of the famous Napa Valley in California. This particular wine is only grown on a one-acre plot, and a limited number of bottles exist.
In 2000, the rare 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon earned a massive $500,000 charity auction bid.
1. Domaine De La Romanée-Conti, Romanée-Conti Grand Cru 1945
Topping our list as the most expensive wine in the world, the Romanée-Conti Grand Cru made history in 2018. A Sotheby’s auction in New York sold the 750ml bottle to a collector at $558,000.
As noted, 1945 is one of the best vintages in over 100 years. The hot year made the sugars in the grapes extra concentrated, delivering a one-of-a-kind flavor. It currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most expensive wine sold at auction. Only 600 bottles were produced, making Romanée-Conti Grand Cru the most expensive bottle of wine.
Other Most Expensive Wine
Whether it’s vintage French Burgundian wine from the famous Henri Jayer, a somewhat recent 2011 Harlan Estate Cabernet from Napa, and everything inbetween, there’s hundreds of great collectible wine.
Several of the most expensive wine bottles in the world are Pinot Noir. Their’s also expensive white wines, and champagnes. A few of the most expensive white wines in the world are riesling. The Egon Muller Scharzhofberger from the Mosel region in Germany is perhaps the most valuable. This particular bottle is valued at nearly $30,000.
Another expensive bottle of white wine is the 1811 Chateau d’Yquem. Typically, white wine expires faster than red, but the 1811 d’Yquem is much different. The best white wine for collectors and investors contains a high amount of residual sugar that helps it last centuries, rather than just decades. It contains 80% Semillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc, helping it age without spoiling. A single bottle of 1811 is valued at over $100,000.
The world of wine collecting is enourmous, and a lifelong study.
To Wrap Up
Wine is big business. Not only is wine a growing and massive industry, but it can be a luxury investment asset with high-yielding returns. Our list of expensive bottles of wine shows that collectors are willing to fork out large sums of cash for rare vintages at wine auctions.
Many factors go into the value of wine, from production to branding. Competition is strong to win expert approval. Growing a wine collection is not only about investment gains but love for the craft of winemaking. It is never too late to get into the wine market and share your love of wine with like-minded people.