What Are the Greatest Wines in the World (and Can You Try Them?)

Fine wine is up there with luxurious living. Occasionally you see articles about “The World’s Most Expensive Wines.” The prices look like phone numbers. You might consider these out of your price range and say “Let the billionaires fight over them!” We are (hopefully) emerging from the pandemic. It changes our values. Why can’t you have the experience too? Here’s the good news: Because of the increasing visibility of wine on ships, several might be available on your next voyage.

10 of the Greatest Wines in the World

Let’s look at some of the most famous wines on the planet along with how you can enjoy a taste.

  1. Champagne: Dom Perigon. This one’s almost too easy. Many people will agree DP is identified with luxury. It will run you about $ 180.00/bottle in the stores. The good news is there’s plenty of it. The bad news is it never, ever goes on sale. Two other champagnes enjoying cult status are Krug and Roderer Cristal. Buy a bottle and open it on your anniversary.
  2. Chateau Lafite Rothschild. In the wine world, many people believe the greatest wines come from France, the greatest French wines come from Bordeaux and the greatest Bordeaux red wine is Chateau Lafite Rothschild. In the stores, it will set you back about $800+. That sounds like it puts it out of reach. Many of the great chateaus produce a second label, wine made the same way by the same team, but from younger parts of the vineyard. In this case, it’s Carraudes de Lafite. This runs $ 270+, still expensive, but more approachable.
  3. Chateau d’Yquem. This is arguably the rarest and most valuable sweet wine in the world. It’s a white wine from the Sauternes region of Bordeaux. The grapes are literally picked individually by hand. At the great chateaus of Bordeaux, it’s been estimated each vine produces one bottle. At d’Yquem, each vine is said to yield one glass! Sweet wines have been out of favor. A bottle might run $320+ in a good wine store. Here’s the good news. It’s often available in half bottles (375 ml) You might find one under $200. You don’t drink a lot at one time. One half bottle is enough to give your friends a taste.
  4. Chateau Margaux. Bordeaux has eight Premier cru wines that have withstood the test of time. Lafite is one. D’Yquem is another. Margaux is another example. It’s a red wine. A bottle will run about $600+ at retail. Some ships have put in Coravin wine preservation systems, allowing wine to be drawn out a glass at a time while replacing the empty space with an inert gas. Your ship might offer a flight of Premier cru Bordeaux wines, but expect to see a price in the triple digits. You might be able to order one glass of Margaux, enough to enjoy the experience.
  5. Chateau Petrus. It comes from the Pomerol region of Bordeaux. They never put in a classification system. This doesn’t stop Chateau Petrus from changing hands at $ 3,000+ per bottle. Why? In addition to being great, it’s also in short supply. About 30,000 bottles are produced per year, compared to about 150,000 bottles at Chateau Margaux. Getting the experience here is tougher, but there is an alternative. The family also owns land in California where they produce Dominus Estate in the Napa Valley. This runs in the $200-300 range.
  6. Domaine de La Romanee Conti. There are several DRC wines. They are arguably the rarest red Burgundies in the world. Romanee Conti itself is produced from a vineyard only 4.6 acres in size. They often produce under 4,000 bottles. Because of its rarity, expect to pay about $ 6,000+ a bottle at auction. Fortunately there are a few other wines in their lineup. Eschezaux is in greater supply (about 16,000 bottles) and might run about $ 2,000/bottle retail.
  7. Domaine Leflaive Puligny Montrachet. There are great white wines in the world too. This one is produced in Burgundy and is also in short supply. Their Le Montrachet, produced from less than a quarter of an acre, can run $ 9,000/bottle. The Puligny Montrachet, from larger vineyards in the region sounds like it’s a steal at about $200/bottle. That still sounds expense. The Domaine was smart enough to start producing wine in the Macon section of Burgundy, where land prices are cheaper. Their Macon-Verze, also made from the Chardonnay grape runs about $65/bottle. I’ve seen it on shipboard wine lists. We try to order a bottle on every crossing.
  8. Vintage port. Here’s a problem we didn’t talk about. Wine can spoil. Fortunately, port is a fortified wine that holds up better. This allows you to play “What‘s the oldest wine you’ve ever tasted” with your friends. Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 has a port bar, with vintages going back to the 1800’s. No need to reach back that far. They should have some vintage ports by the glass, going back a decade or so. It’s a dessert wine.
  9. Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc. This is the wine that put New Zealand on the world wine map. Once upon a time it was hard to find. Then LVMH bought it. Distribution and production soared. This wine still has status, yet will run about $30 at your local wine shop. You should find it on many ships too.
  10. Penfolds Grange. Australia produces great wines too. Shiraz is their star. Penfolds is a large firm and Grange is their star. It has cult status. Fortunately, it also finds it’s way around the world. It will run about $ 500+ per bottle. Good news!  Penfolds produces other wines based on Shiraz. The wine labeled “Bin 389” is often called “Baby Grange.”  It’s a cabernet/shiraz blend and runs about $70+ per bottle. It’s a wine for people in the know who want an experience similar to tasting Penfold’s Grange at a fraction of the price.

These are some of the greatest wines in the world. Most have a “side door” to getting the experience.

Note: These wines should be available on Cunard and most ships with a big wine list.

Photos courtesy Bryce Sanders

 

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