Chateau Lafite 1787The most expensive wine ever sold is Chateau Lafite 1787 but not just any Chateau Lafite 1787. Thomas Jefferson bought this particular Chateau Lafite 1787 in France. Some 200 years later, Thomas Jefferson's Chateau Lafite (see his initials under "Lafite"?) sold in 1985 in London for $156,000, for collection of course, since even fine wines like Chateau Lafite turn into vinegar after a few decades.
The price of drinkable wines depends on many factors but the amount of sunshine plays a large role in determining its quality, which in turn drives its price. In Europe, 2000 and 2005 were very sunny years that rewarded many chateaux with wonderful vintages, as was 1787 apparently, for Chateau Lafite.
The price of fine wines also depends on the market conditions (the fine wine market crashed in 2001 after a bubble but has since recovered), and of course the name of the chateau.
There once was a time when French chateaux dominated the world's fine wines, and Premiers Crus or Grands Crus like Petrus of Pomerol, Cheval Blanc of Saint-Emilion, Lafite of Pauillac, Romanee-Conti of Bourgogne and Yquem of Sauterne still live up to their lofty reputations.
But the French appellation hasn't changed in over two centuries while many of the world's other producers have. Some Grands Crus ceased being grand, retained their classification only by tradition and now face fierce competition from newcomers, including from Chile, Australia and the United States.