Log In / Join Now

Liquid Gold Hits Record Price

Plus, some infamous Virginia vintners have some explaining to do and Honig and others continue to support Japan's tsunami relief efforts

Posted: July 28, 2011

• Psst … Unfiltered's got a hot investment tip for our readers this week: Buy gold—the real thing, or the liquid version, i.e. Château d'Yquem. Both of them are apparently recession-proof: The precious metal topped $1,500 an ounce for the first time this year; 200-year-old Yquem, on the other hand, is trading closer to $4,600 an ounce this week. A bottle of 1811 Château d’Yquem was purchased in London for a Guinness World Record price of $117,000, making it the most expensive bottle of white wine ever sold. The buyer was French wine collector Christian Vanneque, owner of Sip Wine Bar in Bali, Indonesia, and former wine director at Paris' La Tour d'Argent, a Wine Spectator Grand Award winner since 1986. He intends for the wine to be displayed in a bulletproof, climate-controlled glass case in his new restaurant, Sip Sunset Grill, scheduled to open this fall. Prior to the private auction held at the Ritz in London, the wine underwent numerous inspections by the Antique Wine Company and at Château d'Yquem to validate its authenticity. As for its final fate, Vanneque says that he has no plans to resell the bottle. Instead, he’s set aside a date in 2017 to drink the wine at La Tour d'Argent in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the start of his career in Paris. “I will never resell it, even if a wealthy Chinese gentleman or a rich man from the Middle East offers to buy it,” Vanneque told the Wall Street Journal. “I’m not a fancy collector. I’m not rich. I work very hard. This is important that it’s not connected to investing. I’m a sommelier. Wine is for drinking.” The previous record for the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold was set in 2006 for a $100,000 bottle of 1787 Château d’Yquem (or a mere $4,000 an ounce).

• Summer 2011 is teaching us that wine crime never sleeps. This week the wine blotter brings us to Virginia, where The Real Housewives of D.C. "stars" Tareq and Michaele Salahi run Oasis Winery and the Virginia Wine Tour Company. The couple, best-known for their 2009 party-crashing stunt/major security breach at the White House, are being sued by multiple people for allegedly taking money in exchange for wine tours that never materialized. Kerri Chik paid the company $655 for a tour she says was canceled (Chik claims they pulled the old "limo broke down" excuse) and never rescheduled. Emily McCallum is suing for a similar situation: She claims to have paid $1,235 for a graduation celebration that never came to be. The Salahis' side of the story isn't known yet, since they failed to attend an event where they were actually wanted, their July 18 court hearing. The hearing has been rescheduled. Rumor has it that Pres. Barack Obama plans to show up uninvited.

• We finish this week's column on a high note, however, with some vintners who are giving back to help those in need. Unfiltered talked to Stephanie Honig of Napa's Honig Vineyard and Winery this morning about their recent efforts to assist those still suffering in the aftermath of Japan's tsunami disaster. Honig donated two months' worth of tasting room fees to relief efforts, with April's $4,000 in proceeds going to the Red Cross and May's going to Wine and Water, which used the $4,000-plus donation to provide sporting events and other activities for children whose schools were lost in the tsunami as well as for mental health support for the thousands who lost family members in the tragedy. "Japan is one of our biggest markets outside of the U.S. and we always appreciate their support for Napa Valley wines," Honig said. "We feel it's important to give back and this was a big thing that we wanted to do." The Napa Valley Vintners Association (NVV) has encouraged its more than 400 member wineries to support relief efforts since the earthquake struck this past March, and hundreds of Napa wines have been donated to various charity auctions and dinners, said NVV representative Stacey Dolan. Kobe, Japan, native Naoka Dalle Valle and chef Hiro Sone teamed up in May to spearhead a dinner and auction at May's Napa Valley Reserve event that raised more than $500,000 for the Northern Japan Earthquake Relief Fund. Unfiltered encourages readers to add any other ongoing charity efforts or upcoming events supporting tsunami relief in the comments section below.

Homer Cox
Warrenton, VA —  July 28, 2011 4:14pm ET
I understand that Oasis Winery is a common stop for the Fauquier County Sheriff's Dept.
Andy Bard
Colchester Vermont —  July 30, 2011 1:36pm ET
Mr, Vannuque states he is not rich, well call me crazy, but when you spend $117,000 on a bottle of wine, I think you are.
Tom Dolezal
Houston TX —  August 2, 2011 9:58am ET
Interestingly, a local restaurant has had on its list (for several years) a bottle of the 1811, recorked in 2001, at $30,000.

Seems a bargain now. ;)

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.