Most Expensive Vintage Champagne in the World?
Living a Champagne Lifestyle!
Do you love drinking expensive champagne? Have you ever dreamed of living a life of luxury? Or maybe winning the lottery and having millions to splurge on the high life? Then I bet that some of these dreams have included lying back on your luxury yacht with a glass of perfectly chilled champagne in your hand or maybe cracking open a bottle of bubbly in a jacuzzi overlooking a romantic tropical beach?
Champagne is the wine associated with high living, luxury, celebrations and winners and is used for toasts at weddings, engagements, important birthdays, and christenings. Racing drivers shake up bottles of bubbly and spray them around when they win and champagne bottles are also cracked across the bows of ships for luck when they are being launched. It is not known as a ‘champagne lifestyle’ for nothing and the best vintage champagne is a very expensive, luxurious drink. So what is this expensive sparkling wine? How did it become associated with royalty and the super rich and why is champagne such an expensive wine to buy? Also, what are some of the most expensive champagnes on the market around the world today?
What is Champagne?
Champagne is a type of sparkling wine that is only produced in the Champagne region of France and only sparkling wines produced in this French region are legally allowed to be labelled as such. It is mainly produced by blending the white Chardonnay grape and the red grape varieties Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
The process of producing this luxury sparkling wine is known as the méthode champenoise, which consists of a primary fermentation and bottling of the wine which is then followed by a second fermentation in the bottle itself. This second fermentation is brought about by adding yeast and rock sugar to the wine in the bottle to create the fizz and then allowing a minimum of 1 ½ years for the flavour of the wine to develop.
The majority of champagne that is produced is specified as non-vintage, which signifies that it is a blended wine made up of champagnes from different vintages or years. If it is an exceptionally good year for the grape harvest, the producer may decided to create a ‘Vintage’ champagne that has to be comprised of a minimum of 85% of grapes from that vintage year.
History of Champagne
Many people believe that bubbly was first invented by a monk called Dom Perignon in the 17th century. However, the oldest known sparkling wine on record was first produced in 1531 by the Benedictine monks of the Abbey of St Hilaire near Carcassonne and is called Blanquette de Limoux.
What is now known as the méthode champenoise or deliberately creating sparkling wine by adding sugar was first described by an English scientist called Christopher Merret in his paper addressed to the Royal Society in 1662, some years before Dom Perignon began his work with sparkling wine at the Abbey of Hautvillers.
One of the big problems of sparkling wine production in those times was refermentation, a process which during cold weather could sometimes keep some of the fermentable sugar from converting to alcohol. Once the weather warmed up again, the yeast would spring back to life and start producing more carbon dioxide which could force the corks out of the bottles or even explode the bottles themselves. One of Dom Perignon’s refinements was creating the wire collar or muselet that holds the corks in place against the pressure of the fermentation process.
It was during the 19th century that champagne began to become a really popular drink and developed the reputation for luxury and class that it now enjoys, and 20 million bottles of champagne were produced in France during 1850. Back in the 19th century, champagne was generally sweeter than most of the bubbly that we drink today. The move towards a preference for dry champagne started when Perrier Jouet did not add sugar to their vintage of 1846 before they exported it to London.
It was so appreciated that Brut or dry champagne was first deliberately produced in 1876 especially for the British market. The 19th century was also when the great champagne houses came to prominence and the world became aware of great names such as Louis Roederer, Piper Heidsieck, Bollinger, Taittinger, Dom Perignon, Veuve Cliquot, Salon and Perrier Jouet.
What Are The Most Expensive Champagnes?
The most expensive and prestigious are the vintage champagnes and the top producers generally create a ‘Prestige Cuvée’ which is the premier champagne in their range.
Louis Roederer Cristal
The Romanov Tsars of Russia were great lovers of champagne during the 19th and early 20th century, and Cristal was first produced exclusively for the Russian Royal Family in 1876. The political situation was very volatile during the reign of Tsar Alexander II, and he lived under the constant threat of assassination. It is this need for royal security that explains the unique features of the Cristal bottle. Cristal bottles are made of clear lead crystal rather than the more usual green glass, so that no bombs or poisons could be placed in the bottles undetected. Cristal is named for the crystal of the bottles and these Cristal bottles are also flat bottomed.
This is unusual, as champagne bottles more typically have a dimple or punt in their base to balance out the pressure of the sparkling wine. Cristal is very expensive champagne to buy, with a bottle costing around a couple of hundred dollars. However, if you have just cashed in that lottery ticket, you might be able to afford the Cristal Brut 1990 Methuselah, a six litre bottle of vintage champagne with a pure gold label that made $17625 at auction at Sotheby’s in New York in 2005
Shipwrecked 1907 Piper Heidsieck
The Romanov’s love of champagne also led to over 200 bottles of Piper Heidsieck 1907 vintage champagne being shipped to the Russian Imperial Court during 1916, at the height of the First World War. Unfortunately the ship they were being transported in was wrecked off the coast of Finland after being torpedoed by a German submarine. The wreck of the ship was discovered in 1997 by divers and the remaining bottles were recovered. If you want to sample this unique champagne, you will need to go to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Moscow where a bottle of this 1907 Piper Heidsieck will set you back in the region of $33,000.
Salon is one of the smaller and less well known champagne houses, but it produces what is perhaps the most exquisite and expensive Blanc de Blanc vintage champagne in the world. Also a bottle of vintage Salon will only set you back a mere $250! Blanc de Blanc champagnes are made from 100% white Chardonnay grapes, and Salon only release around three vintages a decade, so it a rare and greatly prized vintage champagne.
Did you know that your favourite bubbly can sometime comes in gift sets? If you are looking for a perfect present for a friend or loved one and have very deep pockets, then Perrier-Jouet may be able to help you. They are producing 100 sets that will contain 12 bottles of vintage Perrier-Jouet that you can have personalised by choosing which liqueur is used to create the champagne. You will have to travel to France to do this and spend $50,000 on getting your personalised fizz, but they do throw in storage where you can have up to eight months to age your champagne.
More Shipwrecked Champagne – 230 Years Old!
The bottom of the Baltic Sea is a fertile place for discovering shipwrecks that contain old bottles of champagne. In July of 2010 divers found 30 bottles of very old champagne in a wrecked ship and after investigation they believe it to be Veuve Cliquot that was produced some time between 1782 and 1788. When one of these rare bottles was opened, it was found to still be in a good enough condition to drink. It was reported that this very old bubbly tasted very sweet, had an oak taste to it and possessed an aroma of tobacco, also that the bubbles in the wine were very small. The previous oldest existing champagne was a bottle of Perrier-Jouet dating from 1825, so these bottles of Veuve Cliquot are around 40 years older than that and wine experts estimate that each bottle could fetch as much as $70,000 if they were ever sent to auction.
These are just a selection of some of the wonderful and expensive brands of vintage champagne that are out there on the market today. So if you are looking forward to a special celebration or even just feel like treating yourself, why not invest in that very special bottle of bubbly to add to the festive cheer.
© 2010 CMHypno
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