Anybody who’s anybody knows their wines. It’s a clear mark of high class, and waaaaay too much money. So this concise list will help you pass off as a high society butterfly should the opportunity be forced upon you (for example, being stuck in a lift with one of the Vanderbilt offspring). From vineyard hostage plots to multimillion dollar bottles, fine wines are big business. So sit back, enjoy the list and imagine you’re on a big white yacht, with a tanned, toned deckhand scrubbing the teak beside you as you’re sipping a thousand-dollar flute of Champagne… As if.
10. Chambord ($2 million)
Not technically a wine, but definitely a wine bottle, this indulgent bit of glass is thought to be the most expensive wine bottle in the world. Its handcrafted royal orb is crusted with gold and gems that would make P Diddy look dull. There’s more than a thousand diamonds on it as well as the finest pearls. And whilst the Guinness World Records still hasn’t officially endorsed it, $2 million is a lot to beat. It was made last year to mark the opening of the play Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
9. 1998 Chateau Petrus Pomerol (approx. $1,459)
The older “Petrus”, as it’s simply known, was a favorite of the Kennedy family, who often sank a bottle or two for dinner at the White House. Nowadays this fruity Merlot is still attracting wine buffs from around the globe who pay BIG money for a sip. The reason it’s so good, according to wine experts, is that the grapes are picked very early on and are left to mature slowly. If you want to impress someone, this is the bottle of choice. To sound like you know your stuff, talk about how the 1998 Petrus should reach its best after 2012, don’t you know…
8. 1997 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (approx. $1,540)
This French red Burgundy is consistently good, with collectors of the 1978 vintage going mad for it at auction. But the 1997 is thought to be one of the most near-perfect wines of recent years, hence its high price tag. The vineyard is a money making machine and has come under attack from some very unscrupulous people over the years. One scoundrel held the vines to ransom in 2009, threatening to poison the leaves unless he received a one million dollar payout. The police caught him in time, though, leaving the Pinot Noir in tact.
7. 1990 Louis Roederer Cristal ($14,730)
The poshest Champagne out there is the 1990 Louis Roederer. One particular Methuselah (8 times bigger than a normal bottle) fetched almost 15 grand at auction back in 2005. If you work it out that’s the equivalent of only $1,841 for a normal sized bottle – a real bargain! This vintage bubbly packs in lots of different flavors such as citrus, vanilla, pear and nutmeg. Couple that with its fashionista following and you’ve got yourself an exclusive drink.
6. Montrachet 1978 from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti ($23,929)
If we’re talking drinkable wines then this is one of the world’s most expensive. A lot of seven Montrachet 1978’s went for $167,500 at Sotheby’s in New York in 2001. That works out at a whopping £23,929 per bottle! The price isn’t necessarily reflected in the quality either. Yes it’s a very, very nice wine, but the cost of this white was driven up by two avid collectors who each refused to give up at auction. What’s even more amazing is that it’s white wine – and it’s usually the reds that rake in the cash.
5. 1784 Chateau d Yquem ($56,588)
This Premier Cru, from the Bordeaux region of France, was one of Thomas Jefferson’s favorites, hence the price. The bottle that fetched over 50 grand was inscribed with the former president’s initials. It seems he had very good taste when it came to wine – as the Chateau d’Yquem vineyard is still consistently voted as having the finest wines in the world. Its newer dry white wine, called Ygrec, is the must-have of any wine collector.
4. 1945 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild Jeroboam ($114,614)
Each drop of this exclusive wine is worth the same amount as a diamond, or so the tale goes (cheap diamonds, we say; perhaps they’re cubic zirconia…). The Rothschild family are what make this wine so sought-after, and the 1945 vintage has a V on its label which represents the end of WWII. The most expensive bottle ever sold was picked up at a Christie’s auction in 1997, and wine experts have given this exquisite wine 100 out of 100. Very rare indeed, which means this collector’s piece has the taste to match its intriguing story.
3. 1787 Chateau Lafite, Bordeaux ($160,000)
Completely undrinkable, but still highly prized, this bottle of now rotted vinegar was once owned by Thomas Jefferson. So it’s this fact, and the story behind it, that prompted someone with far too much money to pay $160,000 at a 1985 Sotheby’s auction (by the way for that money you could buy a brand new baby-blue Maserati, 20 pairs of Jimmy Choos and still have change for lunch in Beverly Hills). Still, the former president’s initials are etched into the bottle and it now resides in the Forbes Collection in New York. This piece of memorabilia is the most expensive bottle of red wine ever sold, even without inflation calculated in.
2. 1907 Heidsieck Champagne ($275,000)
At over a hundred years old this Champagne was always going to be special and very rare, but what makes this one even more prized is its story. The cases were originally shipped out to the Russian Imperial family in 1916, but a shipwreck off the coast of Finland meant the Heidsieck never made it. 80 years later, in 1997, and deep sea divers found 200 bottles. Eventually they made it to Moscow, and well-to-do guests at the Ritz-Carlton can pick them up for a mere $275 thousand. The ultimate rich kid’s drink.
1. 1992 Screaming Eagle Cabernet ($500,000)
Although very much sought-after, this half a million dollar bottle has to be taken with a pinch of salt (not literally, you understand). The whopping price tag reflects the fact that this was bought at a charity auction in 2000 and came with a few added extras – namely tax benefits. Bought by Cisco Systems executive Chase Bailey, we assume he enjoyed coiffing this one all the more due to its feel-good charity factor. The 6-liter bottle is from a boutique vineyard in the Napa Valley where they don’t even take orders anymore, and the Screaming Eagle reds are sold out indefinitely.