It may have taken a hit in the last quarter, but wine investment is still a significant alternative market with millions spent annually securing allocations of the most rare and rated châteaux. Burgundy, Champagne, Tuscany and the Rhone feature increasingly — but Bordeaux dominates and the ever-increasing interest of the global elite in wine, whether for investment, prestige, entertaining or genuine passion, means the always-limited availability of these finite commodities is a bigger impediment to ownership than price.
Opportunities to put together a cellar of the world’s greatest wines are diminishing. Inevitably demand for must-have wines of the last century — notably the great reds of France — is high, and supply is limited. Action is required to ensure your grasp on these masterful tipples — all scored 98+ out of 100 points in the influential The Wine Advocate.
1921 CHATEAU D’YQUEM, Sauternes, Bordeaux
This iconic estate in the very south of Bordeaux is literally and figuratively the region’s most elevated wine. In the Bordeaux hierarchy it stands in a classification of one since 1855: the lone Premier Cru Classe Superieur. This denoted the high price that it commanded and today it remains the most sought-after and most expensive Sauternes. Thomas Jefferson declared it the finest white wine in France and 200 years later, in 2006, a 135-year vertical of every vintage from 1860 to 2003 was sold at auction in London for more than £1 million.
The château itself physically dominates the landscape; all other estates and their vineyards are lower down the hill. It also has the structure that makes its best vintages still young at 50, when most other Bordeaux, whether it’s sweet peers or red cousins, have fully matured or started to disintegrate. The legendary 1811 (comet vintage) and 1847 fall outside an assessment of the best wines of the 20th century, so the relatively sprightly 1921 is recommended. The vintage of the century and “one of life’s sublime experiences”, according to Michael Broadbent MW, took 150 pickers 39 days to harvest. The grapes are individually chosen only if fully effected by Noble Rot.
1929 DOMAINE DE LA ROMANEE CONTI RICHEBOURG, Burgundy
The most famous domaine in the world, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC as it is more commonly abbreviated), produces the finest and most prized wines in Burgundy. A turbulent history has seen the vineyards fought over by Madame du Pompadour and Louis François de Bourbon, Prince de Conti (guess who won), who was then stripped of them during the revolution. As became common in the region, subsequently DRC’s vineyards have not remained static and it was only in 1988 that the various parcels were unified into the estate as we now know it.
Richebourg and DRC’s other vineyards are all situated around the village of Vosne-Romanée in Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits and 1929 was described by Burghound’s Allen Meadows as the “the greatest vintage in the greatest decade Burgundy ever saw”. Richebourg is the most powerful of DRC’s wines and is described playfully by the company as “a king’s musketeer, who likes company, likes to laugh and to sing, to feel that the somewhat brutal strength of his athlete’s body is admired”. All vintages are expensive and age-worthy, but only 1929 received 100 points from The Wine Advocate.
1945 MOUTON-ROTHSCHILD, Pauillac, Bordeaux
Mouton, elevated from 2nd Cru to 1er Cru in 1973, is one of the great names of Bordeaux and its 1945 is quite simply the greatest wine ever made. All sources are in agreement — 100 points (Robert Parker), six stars (out of five) from Michael Broadbent, and effusive praise from a wealth of other critics. It’s also a wine that Billionaire.com can personally confirm is showing no signs of tailing off. Of course, 1945 was a particularly special year — it marked the end of the Second World War and to commemorate this, the flamboyant Baron Philippe commissioned a young artist, Philippe Julian, to paint a special label for the bottle, based on Churchill’s famous victory V sign.
This was therefore the vintage that began Mouton’s unique tradition of having a specially chosen artist design the label every year. Subsequent vintages have featured Dali (1958), Picasso (1973), Warhol (1975), Bacon (1990) and even The Prince of Wales (2004). Although other vintages — 1959 and 1982 — are comparable to 1945, none are better. All commentators remark on the almost Port-like richness of the wine, its intensity, depth and opulence allied to its extraordinary exotic and complex perfume. A sound investment in pleasure — but be wary of fakes. [Editor's note: Dealing with a reputable merchant, such as, where we photographed a bottle of this rare libation, is your surest path to avoiding counterfeits.]
1947 CHEVAL BLANC, Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux
This is a definite candidate for best Bordeaux of the century and, arguably, of all time. The two most influential British critics of their generations, Michael Broadbent and Jancis Robinson, have respectively described it as “unquestionably one of the greatest wines of all time” and noted that “I honestly don’t expect ever to taste a wine better than this”. Robert Parker suggests only the 1982 comes close in terms of its richness and concentration, with winemakers at Cheval Blanc suggesting the 2009 is the nearest comparison in recent vintages. Certainly in Saint-Émilion, only its great rival Ausone can be considered in the same league.
The estate has just shelled out €13 million (£10.4 million) for a state-of-the-art new winery and cellar — one of the world’s most aesthetically engaging. It’s futuristic but confidently timeless — like Le Corbusier’s Chapel at Ronchamps or the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The reason for this expenditure? The old winery was over a prime vineyard site that the team is keen to re-plant. With a wine as consistently in high demand as Cheval Blanc and with its impeccable reputation, any opportunity to maximise production while striving for the smallest improvements in quality is easily worth the money.
Tom Harrow is the founder of winechap.com