Due to the relative dearth of ideal grape-growing conditions and the delicate balance associated with the aging process, truly exceptional vintages are quite rare and therefore expensive – often extraordinarily so.
Among wine connoisseurs, certain vintages are held in the highest regard and fetch exorbitant sums of money whenever one is made available. For the most expensive wines ever sold, a vigneron and vintage of historic proportions is typically involved, and the value of the wine soars to remarkable heights if the bottle itself possesses some additional historic significance. Such is the case with many of the 11 wines that follow, most of which sold for far more than six figures when offered up at auction.
11. 1951 Penfolds Grange Hermitage – $38,420
A true rarity, the 1951 vintage of Penfolds Grange Hermitage that sold for nearly $40,000 is thought to be just one of 20 bottles remaining. The $38,420 sum makes the 1951 Penfolds Grange Hermitage the most expensive Australian wine ever sold.
10. 1775 Massandra Sherry de la Frontera – $43,500
This 1775 bottle of sherry from the Crimean region's Massandra Winery is the winery's oldest vintage and – at a price of $43,500 – remains the most expensive bottle of sherry every sold.
9. 1787 Chateau d'Yquem – $100,000
Generally speaking, white wine does not often exceed the value of red wine. In the case of this 1787 Chateau d'Yquem, however, the bottle's rarity and the exceptional vintage were more than enough to spur a collector to pay $100,000 for what was – at the time of the sale – the most expensive white wine ever sold.
8. 1945 Chateau Mouton Rothschild – $114,614
The fact that this particular bottle was a jeroboam and not a standard 750ml bottle likely contributed to the added cost of the 1945 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, but it is safe to say that this was not a purchase made purely for the sake of volume. Not only is the vintage known to be among the very best of the 20th century, the bottle also features a “V” celebrating the victory of the Allied Forces and the end of World War II.
7. 1811 Chateau d'Yquem – $117,000
There is good reason for the multiple appearances made by vintages hailing from Chateau d'Yquem, and the 1811 white wine is believed to be just one of 10 bottles remaining. This bottle also took the crown of the most expensive white wine ever sold by eclipsing the 1787 vintage from Chateau d'Yquem by $17,000.
6. 1787 Chateau Lafite Bordeaux – $156,450
The inspiration for a delightful nickname – “The Billionaire's Vinegar” – and a bestselling book bearing the same nickname as its title, the initials etched on this 1787 Chateau Lafite Bordeaux have caused a great deal of speculation concerning the bottle's original owner, Thomas Jefferson. Malcolm Forbes apparently believed in the wine's provenance and laid out the $156,450 necessary to secure the bottle at auction more than 30 years ago.
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