Top 10 most expensive wine bottles ever sold in the world

Emeh Joy
By Emeh Joy

Basic Medical Scientist, Freelance Health Writer, Lifestyle Blogger and Business Enthusiast

Top 10 most expensive bottles of wine in the world

There is something about wines that make them unique. Each time you sip from a glass of wine, you get that royal feeling. Sophisticated people opt for wine, and people can't help but fall in love when they taste good wine, especially when it is one of the top 10 most expensive wine bottles in the world.

Asides from drinking and offering to guests, another reason people buy wine is as a long-term investment. Just as car collections are used to measure wealth, wine collections also speak a lot about peoples wealth status.

Wine is seen as a drink of kings, and even the vines located in southern Europe are seen as more than cultural heritage. The good thing about wine is that it even gets better with time. The older a wine is, the better it is and the more expensive it becomes!

Some bottles of wine exceed $200,000, yet some buyers are willing to purchase the drinks at such incredibly expensive prices.

Global wine collectors are much willing to go the extra mile to possess the rarest and finest bottles of wine. For instance, October 2018 was a record-breaking month and year for wine auctions when Sotheby's sold a bottle of 1945 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Romanee-Conti for the overwhelming sum of $558,000.

So, what are the most expensive wine bottles ever sold in the world?

List of the top 10 most expensive wine bottles in the world

The top 10 most expensive wine bottles in the world (in ascending order) are:

  1. 1787 Chateau Lafite
  2. Ampoule from Penfolds
  3. 1990 Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru
  4. 1787 Chateau Margaux
  5. 1869 Chateau Lafite
  6. Shipwrecked 1907 Heidsieck
  7. 1947 Cheval Blanc
  8. 1945 Jeroboam of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild
  9. 1992 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon
  10. 1945 Domain De La Romanee-Conti, Romanee-Conti Grand Cru

The demand for wine of exceptional quality has increased in recent years even as more people go into the winery business. More people now know the tricks for recognising a good wine and nobody with the money wants to settle for less.

CNBC asked in one of their Inside Wealth articles, "What do you eat with a $168,000 wine?" Think about that as we reveal more about the world's most pricey wine bottles.

Let's check out each of the drinks in our list of top 10 most expensive wine bottles in the world.

1. 1787 Chateau Lafite - sold for $156,450

1787 Chateau Lafite sold for 156,450 USD

A 2003 Forbes article listed the 1787 Chateau Lafite as the world's most expensive bottle of wine. The bottle of wine was initially owned by Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the U.S.

Jefferson, who also served as the U.S. ambassador to France, did tour the vineyards of Burgundy and Bordeaux, buying fine wine for his collections and friends back home.

The 1787 Chateau Lafite has the initials of the former president 'Th.J.' etched on the glass bottle. Two hundred years later, a bottle of this wine was discovered in a cellar in pairs.

The wine bottle was purchased in 1985 by the publishing magnate, Malcolm Forbes, for $156,450. Thus, making it one of the most expensive bottles of wine ever sold in the world.

To show that he had acquired one of the most expensive wines in the world, Forbes had enclosed it in a glass case and put it under halogen spotlights.

Unfortunately, there was an unexpected turn of events. The strong lights caused the Chateau Lafite wine cork to dry out and it gradually slipped into the bottle.

2. Ampoule from Penfolds - sold for $168,800

A bottle of Ampoule from Penfolds sold for 168,800 USD

Here comes a new version of Penfolds' 2004 Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon. Each bottle of this wine is pricey. It goes for $168,000 while its glass is sold for $850.

The Ampoule doesn't have a glamorous history tied to it. It is primarily sold as a commercial release from Penfolds, a famous winery in South Australia.

Even though the Ampoules have no screwcap, cork or seal, they look very classic and taste great. The wine which comes in a wooden cabinet and container of glass prism can only be opened by breaking off its end.

Some buyers do not know how to open the wine. So, a senior winemaker usually accompanies the buyer to their destination to help with the opening.

The Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon Ampoules are not just one of the most expensive wines in the world but also, the most expensive wines to be sold directly from a winery.

3. 1990 Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru - sold for $224,000

A bottle of 1990 Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru sold for 224,000 USD

Yes, the 1990 Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru is all that and more! Little wonder it is one of the most expensive wines in the world.

The 1990 Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru is sold at an average price of $224,000 for a bottle. The wine is one of the finest. The popular French wine critic Michel Bettane opined that the wine is an excellent reminder of the difference between good and great.

The 1990 Domain Leroy is known for its nature and 'feminine nature'. Its fruit cultivation does follow rigid biodynamic parameters, which usually results in low yields. However, its quality is mostly unrivalled.

As of 2018, Domaine Leroy had produced 3 of the top 10 most expensive wines in the world.

4. 1787 Chateau Margaux - sold for $225,000

1787 Chateau Margaux sold for 225,000 USD

Again, here is another wine that bears the initials of the former president Thomas Jefferson. The 1787 Chateau Margaux makes it to our list of top 10 most expensive wines in the world.

Just like the 1787 Chateau Lafite owned by Jefferson, the ancient wine also had a sad ending. The 1787 Chateau Margaux was one of the bottles Jefferson bought during his visit to Bordeaux and Burgundy.

William Solokin acquired the wine bottle. Solokin brought the wine bottle to a Four Season Hotel dinner to show it off. He placed a high value on the bottle and was asking for $519,000.

Unfortunately, a waiter accidentally bumped against the table during the dinner, causing the bottle to fall and shatter into pieces.

The insurance company compensated Solokin for his wine loss. However, they paid him less than half the value he placed on the bottle ($225,000).

5. 1869 Chateau Lafite - sold for $232,000

1869 Chateau Lafite

The 1869 Chateau Lafite is also one of the most expensive bottles of wine ever sold. The Chateau Lafite wine is scarce in the wine market.

When it went up for auction in Hong Kong, auctioneers were not expecting more than $8000. However, they were shocked when an anonymous bidder bid $232,000 for each of the three bottles.

The auctioneers didn't know that the Chateau Lafite was one of the rarest wines and was considered a luxurious item in Asia.

6. Shipwrecked 1907 Heidsieck - sold for $275,000

Shipwrecked 1907 Heidsieck sold for 275,000 USD

Auctioned at a whopping price of $275,000, 1907 Heidsieck, which were shipwrecked, makes it to our list of the top 10 most expensive wines in the world.

This wine was specifically made for the last Emperor of Russia, Nicholas II. Unfortunately, the ship conveying the wine sank in 1916. A German submarine had torpedoed the ship during the First World War.

The wines have been left undisturbed, under the sea, at freezing temperatures and away from light sources for eight decades.

Nobody thought the bottles of wine will ever be recovered until the wreckage was discovered in 1997. About 2,000 bottles of the wine were discovered. The history behind these bottles contributed to their incredibly high cost. The wine is touted to be the world's most expensive champagne.

7. 1947 Cheval Blanc - sold for $304,375

1947 Cheval Blanc sold for 304,375 USD

An anonymous buyer purchased this drink in an auction at Christie's (a world-leading art and luxury business) for $304,375, thus making it one of the most expensive bottles of wine ever sold in the world.

The 1947 Chateau Cheval Blanc is one of the best Bordeaux ever made. Chateau is a prominent winemaker and was conferred a super-exclusive Premier Grand Cru Classe (A) rank in the 2012 Classification of Saint-Emilion wine.

The year the wine was produced was hit by bad weather, which caused it to be produced under primitive conditions. Its production had some technical flaws.

However, the flaws and peculiar conditions under which the wine was produced caused the wine to turn out with a distinct taste that has never been replicated.

8. 1945 Jeroboam of Chateau Mouton - Rothschild - sold for $310,700

1945 Jeroboam of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild sold for 310,700 USD

This wine comes directly from the vineyards of Nathaniel Rothschild. The Rothschild family bought the estate in 1853. The Rothschilds were said to have possessed the largest private fortune in the world in the 19th century.

Today, the 1945 Jeroboam of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild is enlisted as one of the world's top 10 most expensive wines. It is also touted as one of the best vintages of the last century.

The bottle of wine was sold by Sotheby in New York in February 2017 at the cost of $310,700.

9. 1992 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon -sold for $500,000

Bottles of 1992 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon sold for 500,000 USD

You will be shocked to learn that this costly bottle of wine was not made in the popular vine fields of Italy or France. Rather, it is produced in America, California precisely.

A bottle of the 1992 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon fetched a staggering price of $500,000 during an auction in 2000, making it one of the top 10 most expensive bottles of wine ever sold.

10. 1945 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti, Romanee-Conti Grand Cru - Sold for $558,000

1945 Domaine De La Romanee Conti Grand Cru sold for 558,000 USD

The Domaine De La Romanee-Conti, Romanee-Conti Grand Cru, is the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold.

Jaws dropped during a Sotheby's sale in New York in 2018 when an Asian collector paid a whopping $558,000 for the 1945 Domaine De La Romanee-Conti, Romanee-Conti Grand Cru. This the world's record for the highest amount ever paid for a bottle of wine.

Two of the wine bottles were expected to sell for about $30,000 each (excluding the buyer's premium). However, they exceeded expectations and even broke the auction record set when Sotheby sold a bottle of Jeroboam of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1945 in 2007.

The vintage unicorn wine is a product of the 4.5-acre Romanee-Conti vineyard. They are of premium quality. The year the wine was produced was hot; thus, the wines were very concentrated.

Only 600 bottles of the Domaine De La Romanee-Conti were produced; thus, the wine is rare. Most of them have been sold off.

Does expensive wine always taste better?

Do people buy expensive wines because of their taste?

Have you ever wandered through the aisles in a liquor shop looking for the best wine to purchase and wondering if the most expensive ones taste better?

No, the most expensive wines do not always taste better. However, most times the expensive wines are worth it.

Note that:

Taste is subjective. People's tastes differ.

People tend to believe that the more expensive a bottle of wine, the better its taste. However, this depends on the person tasting the wine.

What determines the cost of a wine bottle is not just the taste of the wine but the quality of the wine. Some factors that contribute to a wine's price tag include:

  • The quality of grapes used
  • The production materials
  • The human expertise used in the winemaking process
  • The cost of the bottle, cork, label, etc.
  • Where the wine was made, such as the geography and soil (also called terroir)
  • How long the wine was aged and where it was aged

Also, other non-tangible reasons such as the reputation of the winery or winemaker can reflect in the price of the wine. For instance, people will perceive wine from a popular and reputable winemaker as a drink with high value and thus, won't mind paying a high price for it.

Some people prefer affordable wines to expensive wines because the former tends to be sweeter. When a wine fermentation process is cut short for any reason, the wine will contain residual sugar. And for wines made from low-quality grapes, residual sugar can make them taste sweeter.

The taste buds can mistake sweetness in wine for richness. This might be why some people prefer the taste of cheaper wines. On the other hand, wine experts and reviewers taste wine more intensely and often have a different preference than people who know little or nothing about wines.

The bottom line is that it all boils down to personal taste when it comes to wine preferences. Most expensive wines have been aged to perfection and are of higher quality, but that doesn't mean everyone will prefer their taste.

Know your wine preferences. There is no standard rating system for wine.