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Famous Wines

A brief outline of some of the biggest names in the wine world. I've been lucky enought to taste some but not all of the list below. Still plenty of time though.

BOLLINGER - Founded in 1829 in Aÿ, Bollinger is one of the finest and highly regarded Champagne Houses. Bolly (as the brand is known affectionately in the UK) produces a number of champagnes, the Special Cuvée Non-Vintage, The Grand Année Vintage, the R.D. Vintage, the Vieilles Vignes Francais Vintage and the largely unkown still red Coteaux Champenois La Côte aux Enfents. 

CHÅTEAU DE BEAUCASTEL HOMMAGES JACQUES PERRIN - Château de Beaucastel produces a top quality red and white Chåteauneuf-du-Papes but the flagship wine, and priced accordingly, is the Hommage à Jacques Perrin. The Hommage is to Jacques Perrin (deceased 1978), the late father of the two current owners, Jean-Pierre and Francois Perrin. The first vintage of the Hommage was 1989 and it is only produced in the best years. 

CHÅTEAU CHEVAL BLANC - One of only two wines awarded Premiere Grand Cru Classé A status (the other being Chåteau Ausone) in the 1955 St Emilion classification. Ch. Cheval Blanc (meaning white horse castle) is made from primarilly Cabernet Franc, usually around 60%, with around 37% Merlot and smaller proportions of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvingon. Cheval Blanc is owned by luxary goods group LVMH, who also own Chåteau d'Yquem.

CHÅTEAU HAUT BRION - The only Bordeaux First Growth from outside the Médoc, Haut Brion is grown on vinyards in Pessac-Léognan appellation in Graves. The vineyrads are planted with around 45% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet franc and 1% Petit Verdot, producing a more voluptuous wine than the other First Growths. Like all First Growths though it is pricey and the equally impressive white wine from Haut Brion is no different in exclusivity. 

CHÂTEAU LAFITE ROTHSCHILD - Chateau Lafite as it is more commonly known, is one of the five First Growths in Bordeaux. It is situtated in Pauillac and is dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, usually comprising around 80% to 95% of that grape, the remainder being between 5% and 20% Merlot and up to 3% Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The estate has  a chequered history, exising in one form or another since 1234. It was taken over by the Rothschild family in 1868. The Chateau was even occupied by the Germans in the Second World War, seriously depleting the cellars stocks. It is regularly one of the most expensive and well performing investment wines although the recent 2009 vintage has dipped in price since it's staggering c.£10,000 en Primeur price.

CHÂTEAU LATOUR - One of Bordaux's five First Growth Wines, Latour is a 47 hectare at the Sotheastern tip of Pauillac, next to St. Julien and the Gironde estuary. Like many Médoc wines, Latour is dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, producing dark rich wines of great weight and complexity.

CHÅTEAU MARGAUX - Another of Bordeaux's five First Growth Wines, Château Margaux is a 262 hectare estate, of which 87 are entitled to Margaux AOC declaration, located in the Margaux commune on the left bank of the Garonne Esturary more southerly end of the Médoc. Again the wine is dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, with smaller amounts of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot

As an aside, the most expensive bottle of wine ever broken apparently was a bottle of 1787 Chåteau Margaux, insured at the time for $225,000.

CHÂTEAU MOUTON ROTHSCHILD - A red wine from Pauillac region of Bordeaux, Mouton Rothschild was originally not awarded First Growth Status in the 1855 Classifcation, allegedly because the estate was at the time under English, not French ownership. In 1973 the estate was finally elecated to First Growth Status and rightly so. This status elevation prompted a 2 finger motto change: previously, the motto of the wine was Premier ne puis, second ne daigne, Mouton suis. ("First, I cannot be. Second, I do not deign to be. Mouton I am."), and it was changed to Premier je suis, Second je fus, Mouton ne change. ("First, I am. Second, I used to be. But Mouton does not change.") 

Mouton Rothschild is made from high proportions of Cabernet Sauvignon, producing big, black wines of considerable depth and complexity. Maybe more famously though is the label. Every vintage, the label is designed by a famous artist of the day. Artists, from Picasso to Dali have had their work grace the label. 

CHÅTEAU PÉTRUS - Chateau Pétrus is a small Pomerol estate prodcuing limited amounts of red wine composed almost entirely of Merlot, sometimes with small amounts of Cabernet Franc. Pétrus is unclassified (First growth, Second growth etc.) as Pomerol does not have any official Classification, but that does not detract from the wine. Pétrus produces around 2500 cases of wine per year, there is no second wine and the bottles of wine are among the very most expensive wines on the planet. 

CLOUDY BAY SAUVINGON BLANC - The wine that kickstarted the boom of Marlborough/New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. The first vintage produced was the 1985, made from purchased grapes, planting their own vineyards later. Through clever marketing and worldwide distribution, Cloudy bay continues to sell out, enhancing the appeal of the wine, even though production yields are in fact quite high.

DOMAINE DE LA ROMANÉE-CONTI - Often abbreviated to DRC this famous Burgundy Estate is widely considered one of the worlds greatest estates. With  numerous vineyard holdings around Burgundy, all of which are some of the best in the region (Échezeaux, Montrachet, Romanée-Saint-Vivant) but perhaps the most famous are the 2 vineyards solely owned by DRC, La Tâche and Romanée-Conti that are the pinnacle of terroir and fine winemaking. Yields are incredibly low (3 vines will produce 1 bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti), the grwoing and winemaking is exacting and laborious (horses are used to till the soil in some areas to avoid soil compaction) and grape selection is very rigourous.

All the DRC reds are Pinot Noir, the Montrachet is Chardonnay. The results though are by all accounts phenomenal. Accordingly the prices are phenomenal. 

E. GUIGAL COTE-RÔTIE - Guigal makes a number of wines but its single vineyard wines La Landonne, La Mouline and La Turque (sometimes known as the La La's) are the best and most renowned wines from this famous winery. The three wines are all Syrah dominated, La Landonne is 100% Syrah, the other two have small proportions of Viognier in them as well. La Landonne is the most tannic, La Mouline has the most Viognier, typically 11%, in it so is the most floral, La Turque is thought of as intermediate in style between the two. All three are highly collectable.

KRUG GRANDE CUVÉE NV BRUT - Another famous Champagne house (there seem to be so many), Krug makes many different champagnes, but it is perhaps most recognisable for and with good reason, its Non Vintage Grande Cuvée. The Grande Cuvée is Chardonnay dominated wine blended from 20-30 crus across Champagne, with alomost all being echelle 100% or Grand Cru status.

LE PIN - A red wine from Pomerol, Le Pin is 100% Merlot from older vines all grown within the tiny (2.7 Hectares) estate. Production is small, between 600 - 700 cases per annum, prices accordingly are exceptionally high. 

LOUIS ROEDERER CRISTAL BRUT - A prestige Cuvée champagne produced by Louis Roederer initially for Alexander II of Russia. Cristal takes it's name from the clear glass, flat bottomed (puntless) bottle with a gold label and anti-UV cellophane wrapper. It is made with roughly half and half Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It has a big price tag and a hip-hop/celebrity image but it is very good quality (it's fly, dog!). It is also, interestingly, considered a Veblen good (a commodity for which peoples preference for buying them increases as the price increases).

MARQUÉS DE MURRIETTA CASTILLO YGAY GRAN RESERVA ESPECIAL - One of the most well known Rioja's around, the Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial (long title but worth it) is a Tempranillo dominant blend, aged for 6 months in vat before often in excess of 36 months in American Oak, old and new. This is a top class Rioja that, although pricey, is within the reach of most mortal budgets. 

MOËT & CHANDON CUVÉE DOM PERIGNON BRUT - The prestige cuvée of Champagne House Moët & Chandon, named after the Benedictine monk who pioneered the quality of Champagne production, although contrary to popular myth, he did not invent/discover Champagne. The final composition of the blend of Dom Perignon varies rarely oing above 60% Chardonnay in the mix. Of all the prestige cuvée's of Champagne, Dom Perignan was the first and remains probably the most famous. 

OPUS ONE - A joint venture between Californian winemaker Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild (yes him from Mouton Rothschild) in 1980 with the aim of producing a Napa Valley Bordeaux blend, Opus one has since become a cult Californian wine. Each vintage is usually large proportions of Cabernet Sauvingon, with smaller portions of Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. It is unsurprisingly expensive around the world.

PENFOLDS GRANGE - Australia's most famous wine, Penfolds Grange is a Shiraz (often with a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon) from the Barossa Valley in South Australia. Grange is often comapared in quality to the well known first growths of Bordeaux; it is justifiably rather expensive. 

PERRIER-JOUËT BELLE EPOQUE - The flagship wine of the Perrier Jouet Champagne house. The Belle Epoque is   blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier most recognisable by its bottle decorated with anemones (the flower, not the odd sea creature) designed by famous Art Nouveau figure Emile Gallé in 1902. 

POL ROGER CUVÉE SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL - Pol Roger Champagne was a favourite of Winston Churchill during his life. After Churchill's death in 1965, Pol Roger initially put a black border round the label of their Non-Vintage champagne shipped to the UK. In 1984 they introduced their finest wine, the Pinot noir dominant Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill. It is only released in the best years, typically around 10 years after the vintage. The first vintage, released in 1984, was the 1975 wine. It is absolutely delicious.

SASSICAIA - A "Super Tuscan" red wine produced by Tenuta San Guido, from the DOC Bolgheri in Tuscany. Sassicaia is one of the finest Bordeaux style italian wines, made from around 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet franc. Annual Production is around 180,000 bottles per year and prices are invariably high.

SCREAMING EAGLE - One of California's true 'cult wines', Screaming Eagle was started by Jean Philips when she bought the 57 acre Oakville Vineyard in 1986. Most of the fruit was sold to various Napa Valley Wineries except for a small parcel of 80 vines of Cabernet Sauvignon which she used to make her own home made wine. In 1992 she decided to take this home made wine to the Robert Mondavi winery to seek their opinion, which turned out to be very favourable. They persuaded her to bottle and sell it herself and the rest is history. Screaming Eagle is now consistenelty one of the most sought after, hard to obtain and expensive wines in the world. 

STAG'S LEAP WINE CELLARS CASK 23 - A legendary wine produced by the Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, a Californian winery established in 1970 in the famous Stags Leap District in the Napa Valley. The Cask 23 is made from Cabernet Sauvignon and commands very high prices. A bottle of the 1973 vintage famously won the 1976 Judgement of Paris blind tasting competition against some of the finest Bordeaux wines; an achievement for which a bottle of the Cask 23 now sits in the Smithsonian. 

Footnote. When searching for Stag's Leap, the position of the apostrophe is important. a similarly named winery has the apostrophe after the "s" to differentiate it, the outcome of a court case in the 80's.

TRIMBACH RIESLING "CLOS SAINTE HUNE" - The Clos Sainte Hune is an Alsatian dry Riesling from the renowned producer Maison Trimbach. The Clos Sainte Hune wines come from a specific parcel of older Riesling vines within the Grand cru Rosacker Vineyard. Annual production is small, around 8000 bottles, making sourcing this wine tricky. If you can get some though you are rewarded with a wine regarded by many as the worlds finest dry Alsace Riesling.

VEGA SICILIA - One of Spain's most famous wineries, Vega Sicilia was founded in 1864 in the Ribera del Duero. The winery produces a number of wines, the most notable being the Gran Reserva Unico. Made from some of the oldest vines in the region, comprising around 80% Tempranillo and 20% Cabernet Sauvingon, Unico is aged for many years before release to ensure the wine fits the desired style. The 1968 Vintage was released in 1991 after 23 years of ageing, at the same time as the release of the 1982 vintage, after 9 years of ageing.

CHÅTEAU D'YQUEM - Yquem, as it is often referred to is the only Premier Cru Superior (Superior First Growth) white wine from the original 1855 Médoc Classification. It is a sweet wine, produced from around 80% Semillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc. The vineyard location means the grapes are particularly susceptible to Noble Rot, combined with very careful multiple grape harvesting selecting only the rotted grapes, careful pressing and winemaking techniques ensures that Yquem maintains it's reputation as the worlds best sweet wine.

The wine is only produced in good vintages, it is capable of considerable ageing, sometimes well over 100 years and as with many of the famous wines in the world, it is exclusive, expensive and entirely worth it.