Chateau Lafite 1787

Jefferson's Chateau Lafite 1787


Chateau Lafite 1787

Chateau Lafite 1787The world's most expensive wine ever sold is Chateau Lafite 1787 but not just any Chateau Lafite 1787. Thomas Jefferson bought this particular bottle in France and etched his initials on it (below "Lafitte").

Some 200 years later, this bottle of Jefferson's Chateau Lafite 1787 sold in 1985 in London for $156,000, for collection of course, since even the finest wines turn into vinegar after a few decades.

Along with his 1787 Chateau Lafite, Thomas Jefferson also bought the 1787 Chateau Margaux, which has the distinction of being the most expensive bottle NOT sold.
In 1989, a waiter at an oenophile gathering in New York City accidentally knocked over and broke a bottle of 1787 Chateau Margaux, obliging the wine's insurer to pay $225,000 for the 75cl of vinegar.

The price of drinkable wine 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, 2005, 2009 and 2015 were very sunny recent years that rewarded many chateaux with wonderful vintages, as was 1787 apparently, for Chateau Lafite.

The price of wine 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 stiff competition from newcomers, including from Chile, Australia and the United States.

The most expensive drinkable wine ever sold is the Romanee-Conti 1978, which fetched $24,000 a bottle at an auction in New York City only 23 years later, in 2001.

So, how much should you spend on fine wine?

Related: Wine Bible