Much like private art collectors, wine aficionados are always on the hunt for the next elusive addition to their cellar. With the most expensive bottle in the world selling for a staggering $1m, it’s little wonder many are turning to fine wine as a lucrative investment option.
The pandemic has only spurred demand for the most sought-after bottles – a trend that shows no sign of slowing down even as restrictions ease. Figures from the Live-Ex 1000 (the broadest measure of the fine wine market) rose by 3.5% in January 2022, up 22.3% from the previous year with interest in wines beyond Bordeaux, from Burgundy, the Rhône, Italy and the US, soaring.
Here, Elite Traveler takes a look at the coveted bottles that have made it onto our list of the most expensive wine ever sold at auction.
2019 Glass Slipper Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Setting Wines
Kicking off our list of the most expensive wine in the world is the Setting Wines 2019 Glass Slipper Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. The precious six-liter bottle is by far the priciest on our list, fetching $1m at a charity auction for the Emeril Lagasse Foundation (which raises funds for youth projects in New Orleans) in November 2021.
The man behind the wine is Jesse Katz – the first winemaker to make the Forbes ’30 under 30’ list with decades of experience at some of the most prestigious wineries including Screaming Eagle. Together with his close friends Jeff Cova and Noah McMahon he founded Setting Wines in 2014, sourcing grapes from Paul and Suzie Frank’s Glass Slipper Vineyard in Napa Valley’s Coombsville.
Only 75 cases and one six-liter bottle of the wine were produced, so if you’re hoping to try it for yourself you’ll need deep pockets and more than a bit of luck to track it down.
1945 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Romanée-Conti Grand Cru
It will come as no surprise that a notoriously expensive Burgundy is the next wine on our list. In October 2018, a standard-sized 1945 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Romanée-Conti Grand Cru fetched $558,000 at a Sotheby’s auction in New York soaring far beyond its estimate of just $30,000.
Not only did it break records to secure the highest price ever reached for a 750ml bottle of Burgundy, it also scooped the top spot as the most expensive wine ever sold at auction – a position it held for just a month before being usurped by Setting Wines.
The prized bottle came from the personal cellar of Robert Drouhin – an esteemed figure in the Burgundy wine scene – where it had been stored for over 50 years. Just 600 bottles of the 1945 vintage were produced at the storied 4.5-acre Romanee-Conti vineyard in the idyllic town of Vosne-Romanée.
1992 Cabernet Sauvignon, Screaming Eagle
Our list of the most expensive wines in the world would not be complete without mentioning Screaming Eagle – a legendary Californian winery that gained cult status when wine critic Robert Parker gave its first vintage a near-perfect 99 points out of 100.
In 2008, Shanghai billionaire David Li spent $500,000 on a six-liter bottle of the 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon at a charity auction in Napa Valley. Made in tiny quantities at the Screaming Eagle vineyard in Oakville, just 175 cases of the 1992 vintage were produced. Aged in 60% new oak, the unfiltered wine expertly balances rich fruity notes of blackcurrant with subtle traces of chocolate and vanilla.
1945 Château Mouton-Rothschild
Next, we head to the planet’s most famous wine-producing region: Bordeaux. Here, at the edge of the Medoc peninsula on a hillock called the Plateau de Mouton lies the vineyards of Château Mouton Rothschild. Bought by Baron Nataniel de Rothschild in 1853 the storied estate went on to produce some of the highest valued wines in the world.
A Jeroboam of 1945 Château Mouton-Rothschild from Baronness Phillipe de Rothschild’s private cellar fetched a cool $310,700 at Sotheby’s New York in 2007 making it the most expensive wine ever sold at auction at that time.
1947 Château Cheval Blanc
Bordeaux is also home to Château Cheval Blanc – one of the most prestigious winemakers in the region. Situated in northwest Saint Emillion bordering Pomerol, the vineyards boast a rich and complex terroir made up of three different soils: gravel, clay and sand.
In 2010, a Christie’s auction in Geneva saw a six-liter bottle of the 1947 Cheval Blanc sell for an astounding $304,375. Made from 50% Cabernet Franc and 50% Merlot, the vintage is a true one-off due to an exceptionally hot summer resulting in extremely ripe grapes and a rich, high alcohol wine with notes of port, coffee and blackcurrant.
Described by Château Cheval Blanc’s director as an ‘accident of nature’ the vintage will go down in history as one of the greatest wines of the 20th century.
1869 Château Lafite-Rothschild
Last up on our list of the most expensive wines ever sold at auction is Château Lafite-Rothschild. In November 2010, the famed 1869 vintage sent ripples through the industry when a 750ml bottle sold for $233, 973 at a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong, far surpassing its $8,000 estimate and setting a new world record. To put things in perspective that’s a dizzying $29,000 a glass.
The rare, pre-phylloxera 1869 is the very first vintage produced by the Rothschild family at the Lafite chateau in the Medoc wine region of Bordeaux after Baron James Rothschild bought the winery the previous year.
And the 1869 vintage wasn’t the only Lafite to go under the hammer at the Sotheby’s Hong Kong auction. That day, 2,000 bottles from the famed winery’s cellars were sold totaling over $8.5m.