Wine-Searcher.com is an online database that brings together wine aficionados and wine purveyors. I often consult this site for price information on rare or hard-to-find vintages of a particular wine.
Say in my wildest dreams and in a state of delirium, I decide to purchase a bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée Conti Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, not generally found at my local 7-Eleven. I turn to Wine-Searcher.com to locate the wine, finding a range of prices offered from merchants around the world. I click on a link for a particular merchant, where I learn I will have to shell out a considerable sum, $20,241 in this case, for a single bottle.
Wine-Searcher has been in the business of connecting those who seek wines with those who are able to supply them for approximately 20 years. Each year, the company publishes a list of the most sought-after wines for that particular year. This year, in commemoration of its 20th anniversary, it published a list of the 10 most sought-after wines of all time.
Nine of the top 10 are French. All First Growth Bordeaux are in the top 10, including Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Haut-Brion and Chateau Latour, all cabernet-based wines averaging $615 to $933 per bottle.
Petrus also made the list. It too is from Bordeaux. This merlot-based wine consistently commands higher prices than its classified neighbors. Average price for Petrus over the last 20 years, according to Wine-Searcher, is $3,258 per bottle.
Also making the list is another merlot-based wine, Chateau Cheval Blanc, average price $688 per bottle.
The lowest priced bottle on the list is Dom Perignon Champagne, averaging $191 per bottle. This is the only wine on the list available locally. It is the prestigious top wine for the Champagne House of Moét et Chandon, and has long had a reputation for being one of the most luxurious Champagnes for special occasions.
The only American wine making the most wanted list is Napa Valley’s Opus One. This winery started as a joint venture between the late Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild, owner of first-growth Bordeaux Chateau Mouton Rothschild. The Rothschild family now holds full ownership of Opus One. Average price per bottle of Opus One is $394.
So who pays such prices for these most wanted wines? Obviously not your average Joe. Only five percent of those who drink wine are willing to pay more than $20 per bottle. As wines become more expensive, that percentage becomes statistically insignificant.
It takes really deep pockets to seriously collect wine, deep pockets like those possessed by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and billionaire industrialist Bill Koch, long known for being avid wine collectors.
Koch, you may remember, is also known for falling victim to wine fraud in two notable cases. The first involved counterfeit bottles of Bordeaux adorned with Thomas Jefferson’s initials. More recently, Koch purchased counterfeit bottles of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti offered by one Rudy Kurniawan, who is now spending a sabbatical in the federal pen thanks to Koch’s persistence in bringing the crook to justice.
Many of these pricey wines also go to restaurants. Bern’s Steak House in Tampa, Fla., is said to have a collection of more than 7,000 bottles. Thomas Keller’s world-famous French Laundry Restaurant in Napa, Calif., maintains an extensive pricey wine list — so pricey that the restaurant was robbed in 2014 of more than $500,000 worth of wine.
Sadly, likely the most sought-after wines in the world are not the most consumed. Those with the means buy them for their prestige, not necessarily for their deliciousness. That is OK if the motive is just to collect but never enjoy.
So drink wine you can comfortably afford but more importantly enjoy. It would be sad to have buyer’s remorse should that $20,241 bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée Conti Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits not live up to expectations.
Pat Kettles writes about food, wine and spirits every other Wednesday. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.