Super Expensive Wines

On a Friday night, a $100 bottle of vino is a luxurious treat for most of us. We might even dare to call these “expensive wines.” But across the globe, wines have gone for six-figures, often only in part due to vintages. These extravagant bottles of wine are artifacts as much as artisanal wines, and their histories and exclusivity make them highly covetable by collectors.


T.J.’s Faves

To date, one of the most expensive bottles of wine ever sold had little to do with the wine itself. Rather, the 1787 Lafite Bordeaux—which sold for more than $156,000—was owned by America’s Founding Father-cum-wine connoisseur, Thomas Jefferson. In fact, a number of Jefferson-owned wines have fetched five figures over the last century at auction.

“Hamilton” fans will recall that Jefferson was something of a Francophile, and by all accounts, his love of France extended gratuitously to French wines. Those bottles that made it stateside are prized items to wine collectors, who have shelled out more than $50,000 for bottles from Jefferson’s cellar. And while his French vacation during the height of the American Revolution wasn’t the finest point of Jefferson’s narrative, our national wine industry owes something to his rendezvous with French Bordeaux.


Wines at Auction

As mentioned, when historical circumstances transform a bottle of wine from a tasty accompaniment to a collectible treasure, values increase exponentially. Most wine connoisseurs would concede that no mash of grapes is, on its own, worth the hefty sums that creep well into six-figures.

Auctions breed competition that drives up prices. Collectors are able to gauge the relative value of a bottle of wine amongst other educated oenophiles. The more others want it, the more expensive the wine becomes. Some of the highest values fetched at auction for wine include:

  • Chateau Lafite 1869 for $230,000

  • 1947 Cheval Blanc for $304,375

  • Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon 1992 for $500,000

When it comes to record setting, you can thank charity auctions and private collectors for those insanely high dollar amounts.


“Mainstream” Champagnes

Nothing says luxury in wine quite like an egregiously priced bottle of champagne. Long heralded as the beverage of choice for celebrating in opulent style, champagne has existed in a league of it’s own.

For those interested in the high-priced champagne market (or wine in general), beware novelty bottles that are double or triple the size of a standard serving.

Some of the most expensive standard serving champagnes come from Krug Cellars. A 1992 Clos du Mesnil from these guys will run you nearly $1,000—about 75-cents per milliliter. If there’s anyone that can rival an established French cellar, however, it’s Jay-Z, whose Armand de Brignac (Ace of Spades) label makes a $500 sparkling rosé in a flashy, metallic pink bottle.

And, of course, Pérignon, Cristal and Roederer all have standard bottles in excess of $200, with novelty bottles reaching into the thousands of dollars.

A great wine or champagne need not be outrageously priced in order to please the palate. Indeed, some of the world’s best wines—including those hailing from California—are extremely budget friendly and extremely high quality. Nonetheless, it’s fascinating to understand the spectrum of costs you can encounter in a high-end market.