The world is a wonderful place. Full of unique eccentricities of human and mother nature. Stonehenge. The Nazca Lines. Purple Carrots. White peacocks. The list goes on, with each thing being rarer and more wonderful than the last.
Rarity, thus, is a quality that makes things, people, and places interesting. In terms of people, rare traits such as honesty, openness, and a willingness to learn makes them genuine; in terms of places, unique characteristics make them places we want to visit; in terms of things, individuality and rarity make them valuable. And some rarer things can become very valuable indeed.
Whether or not a wine is rare is especially important when investing. Now you can do it on your own through a wine trading app but the more you know about wine, the better your revenue will be.
What Is Rare Wine?
The rarest wine on the open market in 2021 was not as you might think. It wasn’t that oh so covetable 1967 Dom Perignon or that must-have 1945 Romanee-Conti. While both of these wines are certainly expensive, (the latter holding the title for being the most expensive wine ever sold – at $500,000 a bottle), they are nothing compared to a relatively recent newcomer to the fine wine game. The rarest wine on the market is a 2004 Penfolds Bloc 42 Cabernet Sauvignon. Just 12 ampoules (no vulgar bottles here) of this wine were released, each individually numbered and presented in a hand-crafted wooden case. By far, not the most expensive wine on sale (the last ampoule sold fetched a meagre $150,000), its very rarity makes it a covetable object. You can learn more about age worthy wine.
What Makes a Good Rare Wine?
Obviously, the first thing that needs to be considered when you are thinking of investing in rare wines is the production number. No other estate has ever been ballsy enough to produce just 12 limited editions of a wine, but going back to that 1945 Romanee-Conti, and you won’t be surprised to discover that the prediction run was just 600. Less is definitely more here.
The next thing that needs to be considered is the estate. Even if I produced five bottles from the grapes growing in my garden, a low production number of rubbish wine is not going to make me a millionaire. No, in order for rare wines to be valuable, it needs to be a perfect storm: low production, excellent vintage, respected estate. And don’t forget ageability. You don’t want to invest a fortune in something only to find it turns into vinegar after ten years and effectively cancels out any value.
The rare wines on the market today are a delicate balance of all of these elements. This is what makes the wine worth investing in, and potentially, will create very generous returns.
The Vintage of the Wine
Do your homework on what the weather conditions were like that year. Plenty of sunshine? Good. Insufferably hot? Bad. Regular but light rainfall? Good. Heavy downpours? Bad. While optimal growing conditions can vary from region to region, all great vintages follow great weather. Look for a sunny spring – long hours of sunshine but relatively cool temperatures allow the grapes to reach perfect levels of maturity. Very hot summers should be avoided as grapes, like humans, suffer terribly from sunburn, which leads to flabby tastes in the bottle. Light rain is good as it keeps the soil hydrated, too much means flooding and an open invitation for rot and disease. The final cherry on the weather cake? Cool evenings during harvest. If you have that happy triumvirate, then bingo, you’re on your way.
Scarcity of the Wine
No one wants a product that has been mass-produced. Like limited edition trainers and first edition Harry Potter books, anything that has been produced in reduced quantity is instantly more desirable than something that has been produced in its thousands. Wines that have a low yield have been given an extra dose of TLC by the winemaker so are generally worth their weight in gold. This is where small vineyards come into their own. Do you want to know the size of Romanee Conti? Just 4.47 acres. So even if the Domaine wanted to produce more of their red gold, they simply couldn’t – there are just not enough grapes to go around. Understand now why RC is the holy grail of rare red wines? Yup, we thought so.
The term ageing like a fine wine is meant positively for a reason. When a wine is released, it carries on ageing in the bottle until it reaches full maturity. Often this can take between 10-15 years. As it ages, it becomes complex and far more interesting for the drinker. It is important to remember that an investor’s final market is those who will actually consume the wine, otherwise, it is worthless. Ergo, wine that has been well kept in optimal conditions sells much more easily than those you have had in your drinks cabinet for ten years.
Best Rare Wine: Top 5
Now comes the interesting bit. We suspect that as a wine lover, you probably already have in mind the rare wine that you want to get your hands on, just because you want it. But what should you actually buy in order to diversify your portfolio and increase your long-term gains? We’ve created a rare wine list of our five favourite wines so you know what to get and more importantly, what to sell.
Best Old and Rare Wine
This is a tricky category as there is so much choice. Winemaking has of course been around for hundreds of years and countries (France) have kept scrupulous records that even a Revolution and two world wars have not been able to wipe out. If we had to choose – and oh what a choice! – we would probably say the oldest and rarest wine is the 1787 Lafitte – the Cuvee marked with Th. J, suggesting it belonged to Thomas Jefferson. A Chateau Margaux of the same year is sometimes available (last auction price was $500,000) but it is rarer than hen’s teeth.
Best Rare Red Wine
Two big hitters are our suggestions here: Domaine Romanee-Contee (what else) in Burgundy and the iconic Chateau Petrus of Pomerol. A bottle of DRCs 2000 vintage was released at a little over €1,000, 20 years later it is selling at over €9,000. Production is limited to 450 cases. Petrus 1999 was limited to 2,500 bottles as opposed to the usual 4,000, with prices today reaching record highs, even for them.
Best Rare White White
One of the rarest white wines that is available on the market would be the non-vintage Blandy’s MCDXIX from Madeira in Portugal. Named The Winemaker’s Selection, Blandy’s released this special edition wine to celebrate six centuries since the island’s discovery. Just 600 numbered magnums were released, comprising a blend of 11 vintages between 1863 and 2004. It currently retails at around €2,500 and is constantly in demand.
Best Rare Rose Wine
Rose wine has yet to reach the heady heights of its red and white siblings, yet there are a few French producers who are trying their best to change all that. Chateau d’Esclans’ Garrus is perhaps not the world’s rarest rose – that in itself is an oxymoron – but certainly one of the world’s best.
Best Rare Champagne
Undoubtedly the rarest Champagne available (or not) is the 1907 Heidsieck. Allegedly, 3,000 bottles were on their way to Russia aboard a Swedish schooner during the First World War. A skirmish ensued, and the bubbly sunk to the bottom of the sea. It remained lost until 1997, when a Swedish team recovered it, only to discover that the 80 years it had been sitting on the sea bed had done no harm whatsoever. It was perfectly drinkable. The Champagne has now reached urban myth status; rumours are that Caviar House bought 2,000 bottles for €2.5m. Apparently, the Ritz Carlton in Moscow has it on its drinks menu at €28,500. Tiny quantities of champagne can still be found on the secondary market but expect to pay through the nose. But as rare Champagnes go, the Heidsieck 1907 is the one to invest in.
If you consider buying any of these wines for investment, you may find it useful to read how to invest in wine, so you know what to expect when the time comes.