Lily Bollinger, of the House of Bollinger Champagne, once famously said, ““I drink Champagne when I'm happy and when I'm sad. Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I'm not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it — unless I'm thirsty.” Over the centuries, kings, queens, concubines, and generals have followed suit and coveted Champagne for its luxury, style, and taste.
This passion for bubbly has never waned and today’s rich and famous have made it their drink of choice when nothing but the best will do. That being the case, they are willing to pay exorbitant sums for the pleasure of a glass or two. Unlike non-vintage (and quite a few vintage) Champagnes whose prices reflect market share and quality, the cost of the most expensive Champagnes is influenced equally by rarity as well as quality; the fewer the bottles made, the higher the price.
Here are 10 of the world’s most expensive Champagnes — maybe the most expensive ones — ready to be put on your ice-bucket list, arranged by price from "low" to high.
Considered the finest quality cuvée in the Armand de Brignac range, which is produced by Champagne Cattier in the premier cru village Chigny-les-Roses located between Reims and Épernay. Although the Armand de Brignac cuvée was first released in 2006, the Cattier family has been growing grapes in the Montagne de Reims since 1763, and has made Champagne since 1918.
A blend of chardonnay, pinot meunier, and pinot noir, the wine’s character is dominated by pinot noir and is favored for its concentrated fruit, bright acidity, heady aromas, and long silky finish. Now the favored Champagne of the rapper set — not surprising, considering the Jay Z bought the brand last year — each bottle is labeled with a hand polished and applied pewter label and arrives in a black, highly polished wooden gift box.
This vintage 100-percent chardonnay is typically made only in the most exceptional vintages. The grapes are grown in the grand cru village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger and left to ferment naturally and slowly without any secondary malolactic fermentation to soften its bracing acidity.
Founded in 1829, Bollinger has been synonymous with pinot noir Champagne for two centuries. The winery began as the dream of a young nobleman named Athanase de Villermont, who fought in the American Revolution, and was realized with the help of a German winemaker named Joseph Bollinger, along with a Champenois local named Paul Renaudin.
Power, style, finesse, elegance, and a long complex finish characterize this vieilles-vignes (old-vine) wine. Connoisseurs consider it equal to or better than Krug’s blanc de noir (see next slide).
Two recent Champagne vintages stand out for their quality: 1996 and 1998 ‑— prized especially in Krug’s vintage Ambonnay. This tiny clos vineyard of about 1.7 acres located in the grand cru village of Ambonnay is famous for producing the region’s greatest pinot noirs, and that is the sole grape used to produce this vintage blanc de noir. Each year, Ambonnay yields a mere 4,700 bottles of blanc de noir, highly sought for its power, finesse, and complexity.
Bernard de Clairvaux and his fellow monks from the abbey in Urville built the cellars here in 1152. Later, in 1808, the Drappiers established their family estate on the site. Today, it is headed by Michel Drappier, the man who introduced the new range, called Boërl & Kroff, in 1995, to focus on pinot noir wines. This rosé is a blend of that grape and pinot meunier.
To serve at their wedding reception, the 1961 Vintage (representing the year of Diana’s birth) Cuvée Dom Pérignon was selected and the Champagne house’s last remaining 99 bottles and 12 magnums were brought over from France for the occasion.
Moet & Chandon
After the wedding, most of the royal family believed all of the Champagne was consumed that day, but it was discovered a few of the magnums turned up and were auctioned off. One in America sold for $4,309.
In sports and in wine, records are made to be broken. Back in 2009, an exquisite bottle of 1928 vintage Champagne from the Krug Collection range sold for $21,200 at auction at Acker Merrall & Condit in Hong Kong, making it the most expensive bottle of Champagne ever sold up to that point.
This Krug is onsidered one of the finest Champagnes ever made. Serena Sutcliffe, MW, tasted the wine in 1999 and her notes described it as a wine of “medium gold color. Fabulous bouquet of vanilla ice (remember the first fermentation in wood). Deep dimensioned with bready notes, ‘sweet’ and ripe on the palate, soft yet big.”
In 2013, British Nigerian luxury designer Alexander Amosu, producer of Champagne Chapuy, and Shammi Shinh, founder of Knightsbridge-based Prodiguer Brands, collaborated to create an exclusive range of ultra-luxe Champagnes called Goût de Diamants, French for “taste of diamonds.”
Each bottle is adorned with a Superman-style diamond-shaped pewter label set with a Swarovski crystal (the Swarovski crystals are pink on the rosé bottles and clear on the blanc de blancs and brut) and a second pewter label on the back that describes the wine’s profile.
Other than safely ensconced in the cold, deep recesses of crayères (deep chalk caverns) in Reims and Épernay, it turns out the best place to age a bottle of Champagne is along the ocean floor at 206 feet. This discovery was made in 1997 when bottles of the 1907 Heidsieck & Co. Monopole Diamant Bleu (later known as "The Shipwreck") were discovered in the Gulf of Finland, tasted, and judged simply incredible. How’d they get there?
In 1916, the Swedish freighter Jönköping was en route to Russia to deliver cargo to the imperial court of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia when it was sunk by a German U-boat. Aboard ship were cases of Heidsieck Champagne and when the boat went down, many of them came to rest at around 206 feet.
At that depth, the water pressure is six atmospheres, which exactly matches the pressure inside a bottle of Champagne. When combined with the lack of turbulence and light, it made for perfect aging conditions for about 200 bottles, sold at auction for $275,000 each.
The producers of Goût de Diamants created this, the ultimate bespoke wine bottle, for a private client in 2013. The extravagant use of precious metals and gems made it the world’s most expensive bottle of Champagne when it was released — a title it still holds today.