Ballpark Estimate: $28,500 to $390,000 for a 750 ml bottle
How much would you spend for an extravagance you can’t use? If you are a collector of fine wine, the answer may be somewhere in the hundred thousand dollar range or even more. And unlike some other collectible items such as paintings, jewelry and cars, once you open a bottle of wine, its value is instantly gone.
To Have or to Hold
When it comes to investing in a good bottle of wine, if your goal is to simply enjoy the perfect complement to a gourmet dining experience, you can purchase one of the finest wines on the market today for a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for a bottle. But if you are looking for something rarer to store in your wine cellar and plan never to use, then an antique bottle of one of the best vintages sold at auction might be just what you are looking for.
Variable to Explore
The price of a collectible bottle of wine can vary a great deal and there are many factors to keep in mind. The age of the wine, the vintage, the vineyard, reviewers’ comments, who owned the bottle in the past, and even the size (experts say that the wine contained in larger bottles tends to keep better than smaller ones) can all affect the selling price. In addition, the rarest bottles can be in high demand, so at auction when the bidding gets going, be prepared for the fact that the prices can get out of hand.
The Top Ten Wine Sales
With so many variables to consider, it makes it difficult to compare one bottle to the next. But here is a brief look at ten of the most noteworthy wine sales that have happened in the past twenty or so years. The prices are adjusted for inflation and also size. It is also worth mentioning that even with the tight economy that exists today, the most serious wine collectors are able to come up with the money to invest in this extravagance.
10. Montrachet 1978
While many collectible bottles of wine are so old that they aren’t actually drinkable anymore, one collection of seven bottles of white wine that was sold by Sotheby’s New York was still as good on the inside as it was on the outside. The lot was of seven Montrachet 1978 bottles from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti that went in a bidding war for an average of $23,929 for each bottle in 2001. When adjusted for today’s prices, this equals $28,500 a piece.
9. Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1945
The year 1945 may best be known for marking the end of World War II, but for wine collectors, it is also a banner year for wine, too. In fact, a jeroboam (which is a 5-liter bottle) of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1945 was sold in 1997 by Christie’s London to an anonymous bidder for $114,614. When adjusted for today’s prices, this comes out to $150,000. While this is a huge price, keep in mind that this extra large size is equivalent to close to about six and a half regular sized (750 ml) bottles of wine. When divided in this way, it equals a little less than $23,000 for each 750 ml.
8. Mouton Rothschild 1945
Some auctioneers don’t just sell, but they also may bid when something spectacular comes up for sale. That was the case in 2006, when a collection of 1945 bottles of Mouton Rothschild went to the highest bidder, who was actually an auctioneer. He bought 12 regular sized bottles of this vintage, along with 6 magnum-sized (1.5 liter) ones, which were each equal in size to two regular bottles. The average cost was $28,750 for each bottle’s worth. When adjusted for inflation today, this equals a little more than $30,000 per 750 ml.
7. Royal DeMaria
If you’ve ever tried ice wine, you may know that this tasty dessert wine can be very sweet. It is made from grapes that are frozen right on the vine, before the fermentation process begins. The production of ice wine is therefore very intensive, making this type of wine more expensive than many other kinds. One of the most expensive bottles of ice wine sold to date was produced by a small Canadian winery called Royal DeMaria. The prestigious bottle went for close to $30,000 in 2006, which is the equivalent of more than $31,000 today.
6. Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1945
When Sotheby’s New York recently put up for sale a collection from the personal wine cellar of the owner of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, wine enthusiasts flocked to put in their bids, some in person and others by phone. The results far exceeded the auction house’s expectations. One particularly noteworthy sale was a jeroboam of a 1945 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. This 5-litre prize went to a phone bidder who wanted to remain anonymous for $310,700. This comes out to more than$47,000 per 750 ml.
5. Massandra 1775
A bottle of sherry from the Massandra Winery in Russia that is dated from 1775 sold at auction by Sotheby’s London for $43,500 in 2001. Today this equals just under $52,000. This bottle of sherry is the oldest bottle from the Massandra collection known to date.
4. Screaming Eagle Cabernet 1992
It was all for a good cause recently at the Napa Valley Wine Auction, when a local executive bought a 1992 bottle of Screaming Eagle Cabernet, vintage 1992. The bottle was imperial size, which is 6 liters of wine (equivalent to eight 750 ml bottles). Yet even this large size makes it a stretch for the price. The generous buyer paid $500,000, which comes out to $62,500 for each regular-sized bottle’s worth.
3. Chateau Yquem 1787
While white wine historically sells for less than red wine, one bottle of white that was sold recently for a record price was a rare 1787 vintage Sauternes from Chateau Yquem. The buyer was a wine collector in the United States, who purchased it from a private collector in France. The bottle was flown to the U.S. to be delivered by a representative personally to the buyer. The price for the wine and such VIP door-to-door service was $100,000.
2. Chateau Lafitte 1787
One of the most highly publicized wine sales occurred in 1985, when publisher Malcolm Forbes won at auction a 1787 bottle of Chateau Lafitte claret, which is said to be another one from Thomas Jefferson’s collection. This bottle also features the late president’s initials. Forbes paid $160,000 for it back then, which today would be equal to more than $315,000. Since this sale, there has been some question about the authenticity of the bottle. Experts have differing opinions on this matter. What is known, however, is that if the wine is indeed really from 1787, it is no longer drinkable, but is still a valuable example of Jefferson memorabilia.
1. Chateau Margaux 1787
Another bottle from Jefferson’s collection also generated a large sum of money, making it the most expensive wine on this list. But in fact, this bottle came about without even finding a buyer. In a strange turn of events, a wine collector had a bottle of Chateau Margaux 1787 that he had priced at $500,000. Although he didn’t get any offers on this high-priced item, he had the bottle with him when he went to the Four Seasons for dinner and a waiter accidentally knocked it over. Luckily, the bottle was insured. The owner ended up with a payment of $225,000 from the insurance company in 1989. This is equivalent to about $390,000 today, making it a record price for a bottle of wine.