Cheers! Champagne & Bottles offer the Ultimate Bubbly Collectible
What makes a bottle of Gout de Diamants worth more than $1 million? While it is made from 100-percent Cru grapes by Shammi Shinh Champagne Chapuy in Oger, France, what makes this the most expensive champagne in the world is the solid white gold label encrusted with a Swarovski crystal.
The New Year is upon us, once again. Soon you will hear “Auld Lang Syne” being played from the cold midnight streets of Times Square in New York City as the crystal ball descends to a brand new year. Champagne, a hug and a kiss starts it all off right.
So, what exactly is “auld lang syne,” anyway? According to Wikipedia, the phrase has been used in poems as early as 1570, but it is from an old 1788 Scottish poem by Robert Burns, set to an old folk tune, that we recognize today. Loosely translated, it means “for old times sake” and we are remembering the last year gone by.
Scots, Irish, Welsh and English sang the song at Hogmanay, the last day of the year. As they emigrated around the world, they brought the song with them. But champagne at New Year’s? How did that start?
Well, like many traditions we keep today, all it took was some clever marketing. Just as we give diamonds for engagements, put a lime in a Corona beer, or send cards on St. Valentine’s Day, the French legalized their version of sparkling wine from the Champagne region as “champagne,” a term that no one else could use without consent. Then they sold it as something necessary for a special occasion around the 1880s, since none other than nobles could afford it on a regular basis before that. Thus, a tradition was born—or rather decreed—and it was just easier to go along.
There are a lot of New Year’s collectibles, cards, calendars, postcards, magazines, plates, pins, figurines, ornaments, and all manner of kitschy items from $3 to $30, but nothing beats the allure of champagne as the ultimate end of year indulgence. To drink, that is. Turns out, Champagne is the ultimate collectible as well.
It’s called luxury champagne, according to Cellar Tours Blog, and since “champagne” must be made from the grapes only from the Champagne region of France, this is a very special sparkling wine suitable only for celebration or collecting.
According to The Drinks Business, the most expensive Champagnes in the world are usually a very limited release. Here are just a few of the most expensive Champagnes available today:
• A Moet & Chandon Bi Centenary Cuvee Dry Imperial 1943 is one of those champagnes that is collected rather than appreciated in celebration; it was released on the company’s 200th anniversary and has an average value of about $1,052;
• The 1981 Dom Perignon, the official champagne for the wedding of Diana and Charles, Prince of Wales, was made in rather limited numbers and has an auction value of about $3,200;
• A 1996 Boerl & Kroff Brut was made by Michel Drappier from the finest grapes and released in only 3,000 bottles at an average cost of about $3,800 a bottle. Earlier champagnes were made for the special events of the president of France;
• The Gout de Diamants is made from 100-percent Cru grapes by Shammi Shinh Champagne Chapuy in Oger, France. What makes this limited edition champagne worth $1.5 million dollars a bottle—the most expensive champagne in the world—is not only the champagne itself, but the solid white gold label, encrusted with a Swarovski crystal. You can have the champagne alone without the gold label for about $186,000 a bottle.
Once the champagne is enjoyed, is the bottle a collectible? Not only the bottles, but the labels, the corks and even the packaging themselves are collectible, too. This empty Ace of Spades bottle sold for $50.
Once the champagne is enjoyed, is the bottle a collectible? Not only the bottles, but the labels, the corks and even the packaging themselves are collectible, too. A Veuve Clicquot champagne tin sold for $8.57, an Ace of Spades empty champagne bottle sold for $50, a 1945 vintage Bollinger champagne label sold for over $7 and all manner of champagne corks sold for up to $3 each.
Clearly, champagne is made for celebration and for collecting. And for that reason, there is occasionally a counterfeit champagne detected as well. Rudy Kurniawan, a connoisseur and notorious counterfeiter of vintage burgundy wines, also may have counterfeited Champagne by switching vintage labels onto more pedestrian brands. He was arrested in 2012 for selling fraudulent vintage wine at auction and is serving 10 years.
Like any collectible, a vintage Champagne will have certain identifying marks based on the vineyard producing it, the year it was made (some wines were counterfeited for years when it wasn’t made), the labels, the glass used in the bottle and even how the cork is made. Always check for inconsistencies in auction material based on the experiences of those already most knowledgeable, the collectors themselves.
If everything else seems right, after uncorking, a counterfeit’s poor quality will be noticed rather immediately, according to wine critic Brad Baker. “You open a bottle and it tastes like apple cider, metallic soda water, or worse,” he says. If you are around vintage Champagne, you will begin to notice the real differences in the most minor of detail, so until then, consult an expert.
However, Champagne collector Rob Rosania says, “Never let us lose the desire for what this all started out as, which is the love of what’s in the bottle.”
Salud and cheers! Happy New Year to you and yours.
Tom Carrier is a General Worthologist with a specialty in Americana, political memorabilia and the resident WorthPoint vexillologist (flags, seals and heraldry) since 2007, and a frequent contributor of articles to WorthPoint.
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