Rare wines are as much a collector’s item as a curiosity. As a scholar of art and a follower of the auction market, I see many undervalued or ‘missed’ examples of art popping up at auction. Wines are no exception, if you know what you’re looking for! You may never buy some of these, but if you encounter one on your travels or in a restaurant, then you should – as I would – splash the money for a once in a lifetime chance. These wines are rare because of their low production, low availability, or price, or all of those things! But behind all these wines are stories of passion and commitment.
Penfolds Grange Hermitage 1951
This iconic Australian was the idea of Australian winemaker Max Schubert. His idea was to create a signature Australian wine with aging potential and superior style. The 1951 was the first vintage, an experimental vintage. The 1951 (and 1952) was either given away or held to stock the museum, and they finally became available in the 1980s for collectors. This vintage also has hand-blown bottles, and its value is in the rarity of it since it is past its drinking window.
Estimated around $35,000-$40,000 per bottle now, as only around 20 remaining.
Krug Clos D’Ambonnay
This Krug vineyard is a tiny 1.6 acres, containting 100% Pinot Noir. It is enclosed by a wall (the clos) and is produced in rather small amounts, in the region of 200-300 cases per vintage. It is an example of a big champagne house showing it can produce unimaginable quality without mass production. Older vintages are said to display amazing minerality – the sort of rocky, pebbly highlights – and a recent check of an Australian retailer saw the 1996 vintage selling for $4000 per bottle.
1959 Antonio Ferrari Solaria Jonica
The story goes that Mr. Ferrari became so enchanted with Puglia that he uprooted vines from Puglia – which was at that time experiencing its hottest summer of the century – and moved them to Piedmont, where he intended to produce a superior quality wine. His intended high-alcohol, powerful wine stopped developing at around 14% alcohol, leaving it high in sugar and sweetness. He had nothing left to do but let the wine age, and hope for a beautiful product. The wine has now aged for 45 years and is the result of Mr. Ferrari’s passion, and he never sold the wine in his lifetime.
1990 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti La Tache
Situated on 1.81 hectares of rich Burgundian soil, DRC as it is known has become one of the most collectible wines in the world. 24,071 bottles of this extraordinary wine were produced, which earned a perfect 100 point rating from the world’s most powerful wine critic Robert Parker. The La Tache vineyard is said to produce amazing vintages year after year (except in terrible weather years) and with the wine coming near the end of its perfect drinking window (2004-2015), collectors will want to get a hold of this wine before it starts its descent.
1990 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amabile del Cere ‘Bandito’
This rare example of a botrytis (‘noble-rot’) affected grape is a perfect example of rarity. There has been only one more recent release of this wine since this vintage, and the story of the wine goes that the wine was secretly made for the first time during the German occupation of Italy, and has since gone on to have some fine vintages. The rarity factor comes from the small production and long aging time – it has been 23 years since the vintage and 18 years in the bottle. Again, aging has enhanced the minerality and it now combines wonderfully with the fruit complexity. A wonderful story too!
Good drinking to you!
Langton’s Definitive Grange Guide
The Wine Sleuth, http://thewinesleuth.co.uk/2013/05/03/krug-celebration-tastingclos-dambonnay-clos-du-mesnil/
The Italian Wine Merchant, http://www.italianwinemerchantstore.com/wineshop/producer/ferrari.html
La Tache image, http://www.cultwine.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/d/r/drc_la_tache_large_1.jpg
1959 Solaria Jonica, http://ei.isnooth.com/multimedia/4/5/c/image_607333_full.png
Krug Clos d’Ambonnay. http://www.vinotecaeldescorche.es/catalog/images/ClosdKrug-1995.jpg
Penfolds Grange Hermitage 1951, http://www.refinedguy.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Penfolds-Grange-Hermitage-1951.jpg