The stories and legends behind five of the world’s most sought-after wines, offered from a single collection in the Finest and Rarest Wines sale on 10 November at Christie’s London
The Chapel of Saint Christopher — La Chapelle as it has become known — is the holy grail of Rhône vineyards. In 1224 Gaspard de Stérimberg, a knight returning from the crusades, built a small stone chapel on the hill of Hermitage. Vines were planted in the following years and the reputation of the wines they produced led to Louis XIII making Hermitage the chief wine served at the Royal Court.
In 1889 Paul Jaboulet bought 2.83 hectares of the Hermitage hill, although it was not until 1919 that he added La Chapelle to his portfolio. In 2006 David Elswood and Michael Broadbent MW of Christie’s tasted a magnum of the fabled 1961 at the Hotel Metropole in Monte Carlo. Broadbent described it as ‘bullet-proof’ and ‘priceless’, noting its evocation of autumn leaves and a sensational sweet and silken texture that flows over chunky damson and rich strawberry fruits.
‘I see stars,’ was the famous utterance of the Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon when he discovered bubbles in his champagne. Since 1959 Dom Pérignon has been issuing perhaps the finest example of rosé champagne on offer.
The 1971 is the sixth vintage and magnums are now as rare as hen’s teeth. This glorious wine is packed with citrus peel, ginger and sumac spice, a mature evolving liquid draped over a fine backbone of acidity.
The iconic red-label Riserva Barolos and Barbarescos from Piedmont’s pre-eminent wine-maker, Bruno Giacosa, are truly worth seeking out. Giacosa — now in his eighties and passing on his mantle to his daughter, Bruna — is an arch traditionalist who favours minimal intervention in the winery. Where others use 225-litre barrels, Giacosa prefers large 5,000-litre botti, and only vintages which he considers transcendent are bottled with the red Riserva labels.
The 2001 Rocche del Falletto is a potent mix of power and finesse — an iron fist in a velvet glove — redolent of balsamic strawberries and sweet autumn blackberries, with a heady perfume of wood-smoke and liquorice.
In 1760 Louis François de Bourbon, the Prince of Conti, vied with Louis XV’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour, to purchase La Romanée vineyard in Burgundy. Paying over the odds, he succeeded, appended his name to the vineyard — and reserved the entire production for his own consumption.
The nearby La Tâche vineyard was part of that original sale, subsequently sold off, and then reacquired by Romanée-Conti in 1933. It is unequalled in its production of exquisite, feminine and perfumed Pinot Noir, the 1993 a warming infusion of red-berry fruit and subtle spices, overlaid with a filigreed tannin that will ensure it endures for decades to come.
This famed Grand Cru vineyard in the Côte de Beaune is home to the most fantastic, age-worthy white wines in the world. Straddling the Puligny and Chassagne communes, Domaine Leflaive’s plot is in the more masculine Puligny side with scree-like soil, which may have led to the site being named Scabby Hill — Mont-Rachet.
Until her untimely death in 2015, the estate was run by the Grande Dame of Burgundy, Anne-Claude Leflaive, who pioneered biodynamic viticulture, and in 2014 was named Winemaker’s Winemaker by the Institute of Masters of Wine. The 2010 is a titan of a wine — a pulsating sinew of acid around which lemon peel, apricot, peaches and verbena revolve.