Imagine a wine made from grapes from some of the world’s oldest vines shipped to you in a handmade artisan bottle – it’s enough to put a twinkle in the eye of even the most casual sommelier. Just keep your platinum Visa handy…
In a move that’s upped the ante for high-end wineries everywhere, Australia’s Penfolds label has announced the release of a special Kalimna Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine will be delivered in a hand-blown glass ampoule, suspended in a bespoke Jarrah-wood cabinet. Carrying a price of 170,000 dollars or 135,000 euros, the company has officially broken the world record for the most expensive wine ever sold directly from a winery.
The Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon
A deep red Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine is produced from grapes that Penfolds says are cultivated from the world’s oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines. Vineyard founder Christopher Rawson Penfold was a physician who emigrated to Australia in 1844, bringing with him cuttings from a French vineyard. The Penfolds label wine was originally produced for its medicinal benefits in treating patients, but the company soon grew beyond its hospital beginnings into the empire it has become today. For this special edition Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon, Penfolds used a 2004 vintage wine made from grapes produced by 130-year-old vines. Wine Spectator editor Harvey Steiman awarded the Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon a perfect 100 points, declaring it the best pure Cabernet to emerge from Australia.
Although on first glance an ampoule might seem like an odd choice for the storing of a high-priced premium wine, it does make sense when you think about it. An ampoule, after all, is a sealed, all-glass container usually used to store volatile chemicals or medical samples. According to Penfolds, the perfectly airtight environment that the ampoule provides is the safest way to preserve and age a wine to perfection, with no risk of cork contamination – but other specialists have suggested that a fine wine does in fact require at least a little bit of contact with air in order to age properly. In any case, opening one of these special bottles requires shearing the neck and top clean off with pressure applied at just the right angle. To eliminate the risk of shards of glass falling in the wine during this process, Penfolds Vineyards' Chief Winemaker Peter Gago has committed to flying anywhere in the world to assist with opening the ampoule using a special tungsten-tipped, sterling silver scribe-snap.
There’s something a little bit pompously tongue-in-cheek about shipping a wine in an exorbitantly priced ampoule. This fragility offers Penfolds the opportunity to bump the opulence of the Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon up yet another notch – with a protective artisan case. Crafted from Jarrah, a type of eucalyptus tree highly prized for its color and attractive grain, each case is hand built by master cabinetmaker Andrew Bartlett. Working together with glass sculptor Nick Mount, glassblower Ray Leake, and metal smith Hendrik Forster, Bartlett shaped the packaging for this ultra-exclusive into an artwork unto itself. Considering that a normal 750 ml bottle of the Block 42 Kalimna Cabernet Sauvignon sells for dollars/ 500, it’s clear that the value here lies mostly in the presentation of this special set. In terms of investment value however, even Peter Gago himself goes so far as to say that wine lovers might be better off putting their money into vintage bottles with a well-established track record.
That being said, if you’re interested, a few of the 10 bottles produced have already been sold, so as the saying goes, now’s the time.