Archive for August, 2014

The Most Expensive Bottle of Wine Ever Sold

August 25th, 2014 No comments

Interestingly, arguments rage as to what was actually the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold. You need to take account of inflation. There are private sales which are just rumored, of fabulous, near mythical wines which never reach the open market. Then of course, we need to make a distinction for size, and between red and white, and perhaps, discount those wines which have interesting associations, such as having been owned by a famous person, where the association is more important than the wine.

Here then are some of the contenders:

The Penfolds Ampoule

Penfolds AmpouleThis is a limited edition of 12 handmade bottles offered by Australian store LCBO. The wine contained within the handmade bottle, which is itself contained in a meter high wooded case made from rare Australian hardwood, is a 2004 Kalimna Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon; a delightful wine indeed, but worth $168,000? Three bottles have so far been sold, and it seems unlikely that the wine will ever be poured from these extravagantly crafted, hermetically sealed bottles, looking for all the world like a plumb bob, made from gray glass. An ordinary bottle of this vintage sells at around $1000 – look like a bargain, doesn’t it?

Chateau Lafitte 1787

A bottle of Chateau Lafitte 1787 was sold in 1985 for $156,450, which considering that the bottle life of red wine cannot be more than fifty years at most, is a lot of money to pay for vinegar.

But wait! This bottle came from the cellar of one Thomas Jefferson, a dedicated wine lover who learned about good wines whilst doing as stint as ambassador to France. And this bottle has the magic initial Th. J etched into it, giving it provenance.

Jeroboam of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1945

This bottle of what is considered to be one of the world’s finest clarets sold for a massive $310,700. So why isn’t it the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold? Because it’s not a bottle, it’s the much larger jeroboam, so in fact, this is pretty cheap, working out at approximately $8,630 a glass, which according to those who have had the privilege of tasting this vintage, is worth every penny.

Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1941

Another bargain at a mere $24, 675, this is the most expensive American made wine ever sold. Yes, wine making was alive and kicking in 1941, and this is considered one of the finest wines ever made in the US. According to Francis Ford Coppola, who now owns Inglenook, the wine had flavors of violets and rose petals; he was lucky enough, and of course, wealthy enough, to be able to actually open a bottle and drink it.

Krug 1928

At $21,200, this is the most expensive bottle of champagne ever sold. And perhaps it’s surprising that champagne doesn’t top the list of most expensive wines. We are used to thinking of champagne as a luxury wine, but, it doesn’t seem to evoke the depths of passion that the clarets and Burgundies inspire. And I think we’ve all been to clubs that seem to sell champagne at roughly that price!

For an entertaining account of the Thomas Jefferson bottle, check out
“The Billionaire’s Vinegar” by Benjamin Wallace.

Categories: Wine & Health, Wine Blogs, Wine History Tags:

Which Wine Goes With Chocolate?

August 19th, 2014 No comments

It’s a common dilemma. Your wife has planned a special meal, and is determined to offer her famous Chocolate Truffle Surprise for desert. Or you are dining at a great restaurant, and you just have to try their renowned chocolate mousse. You want to carry on drinking wine through the desert course and on to the cheese, but, wine and chocolate fight, right?

Well, yes and no. Wine and chocolate can be an exciting and intriguing pairing, but you need to choose the right wine. A delicate flowery white is going to be crushed, as is even the most well-muscled dry red.

The Chocolate Must Be GoodWine2

Start with the chocolate. That stuff Hershey makes is a confectionery, it isn’t chocolate. Also, white “chocolate” doesn’t contain cocoa. Good white chocolate has its place, but for the purposes of this article we are just looking at milk and plain chocolate.

In your home, and at a fine restaurant, chocolate used in cooking is likely to be real chocolate, organic, and with a high percentage of cocoa; not loaded with cocoa butter, sugar, or heaven forbid corn syrup. If it contains milk, it will be good quality whole milk.

At home, you have the benefit of forward planning, so you can taste the chocolate in advance, and gauge the sweetness of the finished dish. Then select a wine which is sweeter than the final desert will be. At a restaurant, ask the commelier for his advice.

Your search will very likely send you to fortified wines, port, sherry or Madeira, and to high octane sweet red, perhaps one with some sparkle, for example, a Moscato d’ Asti, as well as to your favorite desert wines.

Milk Chocolate

Generally an altogether milder, sweeter taste and a smoother feel in the mouth than a full on dark and bitter chocolate, milk chocolate and milk chocolate confections call for the sweetest wines, but ones with a yielding quality which matches the gentleness of the milk chocolate’s taste profile. You could experiment here with a Pinot Noir or even a Riesling.

A favorite desert in our house is fresh garden picked strawberries dipped in melted Goss milk chocolate, which we get from Belize, and which is then cooled in the fridge. The chocolate dipped strawberries are served with a glass or two of Bollinger. Sybaritic luxury.

Plain Chocolate

This is really the king of chocolate, and must contain a minimum of 35% cocoa to qualify as dark, although I prefer around 50%. The more cocoa, the less sweet and more complex, is the flavor of the chocolate. You don’t need sweet wine to drink with truly dark chocolate, but you should choose wine with a truly robust complexity of flavor and plenty of tannin if the multiple layers of flavor in the chocolate won’t simply swamp your taste buds.

Select a Californian Zinfandel with plenty of fruit, high alcohol levels and lots of spice, and just see how the wine and the chocolate sing to each other. Pinot Noir and Merlot can also come into their own here, but again, choose one with plenty of fruit and structure.

Perhaps the very best wine of all to pair with chocolate is Banyuls, from the south of France, made from the Grenache grapes. This delightful wine has hints of chocolate in its own flavor, and is possibly the ideal pairing with chocolate.

It’s fun to spend time figuring out your own favorite wine and chocolate pairings. Remember, for this exercise, you shouldn’t be eating ordinary mass produced chocolate. Instead choose brands such as Lindt, Green and Blacks, or seek out chocolate from small artisanal makers such as my favorite, Goss from Belize.

Categories: Wine & Health, Wine Blogs, Wine History Tags: