NEW YORK – One of the most fascinating things about collecting wine (or anything for that matter) is the marriage of subjective appeal and objective import, relevance and demand – all of which translates into a sense of value. There are those whose interest may be piqued by 1982 First Growth Bordeaux or full cases of DRC, while others might only venture down the auction path in search of birth year vintages, rarely seen mega size-formats or the hunt for producers or cuvées no longer in existence or production.
In any sale though, there are some lots that seem to leap out of the catalogue due to their extreme value, the legendary renown of a particular vintage or the pure novelty of an uncommon treasure. To that end, here are five selections from Finest and Rarest Wines on 25 February 2017 that have the extra cachet of being “unicorn” wines of mythical status.
LA TACHE 1971 DOMAINE DE LA ROMANEE-CONTI
One of the most iconic Burgundies of the latter half of the 20th century, the 1971 La Tâche is a hall of fame type of wine. Single bottles reach upwards of $5,000, while magnums have regularly achieved $15,000–$20,000 each. To have a lot of six magnums of this legend is a rarity in itself. Furthermore, there are also three regular-sized bottles of the 1971 available in the sale.
CHATEAU LA MISSION HAUT-BRION 1945
Another absolute legend, this time hailing from Bordeaux – the sheer power and longevity of the 1945 vintage in Bordeaux is astounding. These wines are seemingly immortal. The esteem of the vintage, coupled with the renown and quality of a Second Growth estate (which many believe regularly equals or eclipses the First Growths in certain vintages), leads to an irresistible combination. And in this case, has the added bonus of being in magnum format. Beyond the liquid inside, a bottling in the year the Second World War ended reminds us of the resilience of winemakers in the face of even the greatest obstacles.
RIDGE, CABERNET SAUVIGNON, EISELE 1971
A true unicorn wine, if ever there was one, the Ridge “Eisele” 1971 is a wine that was only ever made once! The fabled Eisele Vineyard is one of the great terroirs in Napa Valley, recognised for a breed and class of Cabernet Sauvignon that can rival any from around the world. Still produced under an eponymous name, but also famously produced by Araujo and Joseph Phelps for many years, Eisele Cabernets enjoy a place in the pantheon of great Napa wines. In 1971, Paul Draper and Ridge only produced this wine one time, but stories of its age-ability, structure and rarity have made it a treasure.
HERMITAGE ROUGE 1990 JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE
Produced by Gerard Chave in the last years before he welcomed son Jean-Louis to run the domaine, the 1990 Hermitage is one of those true stunners in a long tradition of muscular yet elegant Syrahs that are coaxed from the steep hillsides of the Northern Rhône valley. Farming this land has been in the Chave family’s heritage since the 1400s, and you can see a deep understanding of Syrah at its apogee in the dark, brooding, yet somehow generous and lively 1990.
ORNELLAIA BIANCO 2014
From the vaunted Super Tuscan Tenuta del Ornellaia in Bolghieri, this coveted white wine from sandy Tuscan soils is seeing its second ever vintage released in the 2014. Its inaugural release, the 2013, was offered as an exclusive to United States collectors in last year’s Sotheby’s Wine sale, Finest and Rarest Wines Featuring Ornellaia Archivio Storico, and the 2014 will be offered to collectors in the same manner this year. A unique blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier, the Ornellaia Bianco has the makings of a true vinous iconoclast.