The ten most expensive wines in the world cost between $8,000 and $300,000 per bottle. Some of the wines are still available on the market today. Most have long since been enjoyed or exist only in private collections.
The table below lists the ten most expensive wines in the world. The most expensive by far is the 1947 Château Cheval Blanc. The wine is something of a Stradivarius in the wine world, possibly a masterpiece but more probably an ecstatic accident brought forth by aberrant weather and luck.
The list includes a Lafite, a Margaux, a Mouton Rothschild and a Yquem. Perhaps the most tragic of all is the 1811 Château d’Yquem bought not by an investor but a wine lover who planned to drink it in 2017 but then died last year.
1. 1947 Château Cheval Blanc: $304,000
The most expensive wine in the world and arguably the finest is the 1947 Château Cheval Blanc. Over the years this vintage has assumed mythic qualities for its complexity and a combination of apparently opposing qualities. The wine combines high alcohol content, sweetness and high acidity in a way that is somehow a delight to the palate. Universally acclaimed by nearly every critic who samples it, the wine’s uncanny excellence was not born of mastery but of accident or miracle.
The summer of 1947 brought record heat, destroying thousands of barrels of wine throughout Europe. Grapes nearly turned to raisins on the vine. A combination of old barrels, too much yeast and a “stuck fermentation” should by all rights have ruined this vintage. Instead, something miraculous occurred, giving the wine all the earmarks of a disaster yet somehow combining them into a sensory epiphany. Its nose is characterized by hints of macaroon, fig and chocolate. Fat and dense in the mouth, its aftertaste recalls a never ending firework display. It’s little wonder a bottle sold at a Christie’s auction in Geneva for $304,000.
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2. 1869 Château Lafite: $232,692
The second most expensive wine in the world is the 1869 Château Lafite Rothschild. Unlike the Cheval Blanc, there’s no litany of exultation in wine-tasting circles regarding this vintage. Rather, the wine seems to have fallen into relative obscurity. The wine’s high price comes from a single 2010 Sotheby’s auction in China. A bidding war ended when one wealthy investor bought not one but three bottles for $232,692. In a bizarre twist, 10,000 bottles of Château Lafite of different vintages were discovered in an abandoned house in China two years later. If authentic, the stash would be worth over $12.6 million.
The Lafite winery dates back to the 1670s, though there were likely vineyards on the estate’s land as far back as the Middle Ages. Lafite wines are among the most expensive on the market, with many vintages averaging $1,000 per bottle. Wines from the estate are recognized for their finesse and elegance, with exotic aromas of thyme, cedar, smoke and damp earth. In the mouth they reveal sensations of freshness and silk.
3. 1787 Château Margaux: $225,000
The third most expensive wine in the world got its high price from an insurance payout. The story goes that in 1989 a wine merchant named William Sokolin discovered the bottle hidden behind a wall in a wine cellar in Paris. Better still, the wine had once been owned by none other than Thomas Jefferson, whose initials were inscribed on the label. Proud of his newfound possession, Sokolin displayed it to friends at a restaurant. Tragically, he bumped it against a table, breaking the bottle and spilling 114-year-old wine all over the rug.
Sokolin was disconsolate, but his loss wasn’t as great as he thought. First, the restaurant manager tasted some of the spilt wine and said it had largely turned to vinegar. Second, the bottle was insured for $225,000. It’s unlikely that Sokolin committed insurance fraud, since he himself had paid that same price to buy it. He was hoping to sell it for a profit.
4. 1811 Château d’Yquem: $117,000
The most expensive white wine ever bought is the 1811 Château d’Yquem. This wine is a story of wine lover meets perfect vintage. The wine was bought by former professional wine taster Christian Vanneque. Vanneque was a sommelier at La Tour d’Argent who opened a wine bar in Bali. He said he would never sell the wine.
“I will never resell it, even if a wealthy Chinese gentleman or a rich man from the Middle East offers to buy it,” says Vanneque. “I’m not a fancy collector. I’m not rich. I work very hard. This is important that it’s not connected to investing. I’m a sommelier. Wine is for drinking.”
Often when a bottle of wine sells for over $20,000 there’s an investor involved. Someone is buying the wine simply because it’s rare and they hope to make a profit. Vanneque does admit to using the purchase as PR for his wine business, but there’s a sense he used that angle to justify drinking the wine and not the other way around. This is really a case where a wine lover found the perfect bottle. Vanneque planned on drinking the wine in 2017 but then died tragically last year before tasting his prize.
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5. 1945 Château Mouton Rothschild: $114,614
The 1945 Château Mouton Rothschild is the fifth most expensive wine at $114,614. This wine was made famous and ultimately valuable by its rich history. Baron Philippe de Rothschild, one of the world’s most successful wine growers, fled France at the onset of the German invasion. Rothschild was Jewish and was arrested in Algeria, his family estate seized by the Nazi-controlled Vichy government. Rothschild fought the Germans in the Free French Forces. At war’s end, he returned to his family estate and laid down his first postwar vintage, complete with a “V” for victory on every label.
The wine has amber and brick hues with an intense bouquet of truffle, leather and Asian spice. Described as silky and rich on the palate, it supplies a complex and seamless finish. The $114,614 price was for a full jeroboam. A typical bottle of this wine would almost certainly sell for about a quarter of that price.
6. 1915 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, France: $38,468
The sixth most expensive wine ever is the 1915 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. This wine has been called the world’s finest Pinot Noir. The winery itself is renowned as one of the world’s greatest producers of wine. Its prices are among the highest as well. Established in 1231 on the Abbey of Saint Vivant, it was later converted into a private family business. Modern day operators boast that it takes three vines to produce a single bottle of wine.
The Romanee-Conti has been called a masterpiece of equilibrium. Wine critic Clive Coates called it the scarcest and best wine in the world and the most intense Pinot Noir imaginable. It is therefore the standard by which all other Pinot Noirs are judged. It’s been described as a savory attack in the mouth belied by delicate aromas of oak, raspberry and mushroom.
The Ten Most Expensive Wines in the World
The table below shows the ten most expensive wines in the world. Most are available now only in auctions or private collections. The list includes the $304,000 1947 Château Cheval Blanc, made famous in popular culture in the movie Ratatouille.
Most Expensive Wine
|1||1947 Chateau Cheval-Blanc||$304,000|
|2||1869 Chateau Lafite||$232,692|
|3||1787 Chataeu Margaux||$225,000|
|4||1811 Château d’Yquem||$117,000|
|5||1945 Chateau Mouton Rothschild||$114,614|
|6||1915 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Romanee-Conti Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, France||$38,468|
|7||1951 Penfolds Grange Hermitage||$38,420|
|8||1941 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon||$24,675|
|9||1928 Vintage Krug||$21,200|
|10||Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon||$8,052|
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7. 1951 Penfolds Grange Hermitage: $38,420
The seventh most expensive wine in the world is also the most expensive Australian wine ever sold. A bottle of the 1951 Penfolds Grange Hermitage sold for $38,420 in 2004. The bottle sold at an Australian auction to a private collector. There are only 20 bottles of the vintage left in existence.
The Penfolds Grange Hermitage was primarily a Shiraz with a small blend of Cabernet Sauvignon. The 1951 vintage was the first experimental vintage, laid down in American oak hogsheads. It is said to be Australia’s most celebrated wine. Created by legendary winemaker Max Schubert, the wine was not at first commercially released. 1,800 bottles were made and given as gifts to Schubert’s colleagues and friends. It is now the most sought-after Australian vintage.
8. 1941 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon: $24,675
The 1941 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon is the eighth most expensive wine ever made. Nowadays the Napa Valley is widely regarded as an excellent wine region. However in the days when this vintage was laid down, the area’s esteemed reputation had not yet emerged. Called “the wine of the century,” this wine received a perfect score of 100 from Wine Spectator magazine. Several Napa Vally insiders have called it one of the finest Cabernets ever made. Francis Ford Coppola of Hollywood movie fame once bought a bottle for nearly $25,000. After having a glass, he noted that the wine possessed a delightful aroma of violets and rose petals.
The wine was aged in American Oak puncheons and exhibits unique flavors, richness and complexity.
9. 1928 Vintage Krug: $21,200
The ninth most expensive wine on record is the 1928 Krug. A bottle of this vintage sold for $21,200 in 2009. The sale took place at a Hong Kong auction, though other bottles have sold for over $17,000 each. The wine is a champagne produced in Napa Valley, California. If it sounds wrong that a champagne can be produced anywhere other than Champagne, France, there’s a good reason for that. France has long contended that the only wines fit to be labeled Champagnes come from its own vineyards. Though the U.S. has at times agreed to this distinction, the current international ruling is that any winery that used the word “champagne” on its labels prior to 2006 could continue to do so.
10. 1992 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon: $8,052
The 1992 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon is the tenth most expensive wine in the world. The wine has sold for $8,052 per bottle, though that price conceals a much higher sale. Technically this is the most expensive vintage ever sold, since a bottle of this wine went for $500,000 at a charity auction in 2000. However, there’s some evidence that the price of this wine had nothing to do with either rarity or quality. Rather, the price is said to have been paid by a wealthy philanthropist who wanted simply to make a large charitable donation.
The wine is still rare and expensive. 175 cases were produced, sold only by exclusive mailing list and at auctions. The waiting-list-only sales technique has created something of a cult status for this wine. The wine is said to be juicy and vibrant, with aromas of pomelo and white peach. Medium to full-bodied, the wine is soft and silky in the mouth.