The $168,000 bottle

This article first appeared in Style, August 2012
Tyson Stelzer

The $168,000 bottle
The race is on to create the most expensive wine in Australia.
2012 is the year when Australian winemakers shot for the stratosphere. It seems every second winery is launching a new prestige wine at $100 or more this year, and not every one is worthy of its price. But for some, the sky is the limit.
The trigger came in November last year when Penfolds released its most expensive luxury drop in Shanghai, Special Bin 620 Coonawarra Cabernet Shiraz 2008 at a cool $1,000 a bottle. Compared with escalating prices of France’s Bordeaux First Growths, it looks like a positive bargain. Penfolds’ has more than a fifty year heritage with this blend and its latest rendition will be history-defining in its time. Wines of such calibre are crucial for Australian wine at every level, and with less than 1000 cases released, all reports are that it’s selling very well.
Just to outdo Bin 620, Parawa Estate Ingalalla Grand Reserve 2007 was launched in China earlier this year at $1,100 a bottle. Far from a wine of pedigree, this is the first release from an unknown seven-year-old vineyard on South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula. Australian commentators, myself included, were denied samples on the basis that the wine will only be released in Singapore, Hong Kong and Beijing.
The ultimate luxury Australian wine collector’s piece of all time was unveiled last month in Moscow, a hand-blown glass ampoule containing 750mL of Penfolds Kalimna Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon, housed in a sleek glass plumb-bob, suspended within a hand crafted Jarrah cabinet. Just twelve of these works of art have been made. The $168,000 price tag includes a Penfolds winemaker to open the ampoule for you, whenever and wherever in the world you happen to be.
At the top end, there’s no limit to what you could spend of a bottle of wine. The good news for the rest of us is that Australia’s grape glut means there’s still plenty of bargain wine to be enjoyed. And there will be for a long time to come.

Tyson’s Picks
Mike Press Wine Adelaide Hills Single Vineyard Shiraz 2011, $13
Here’s glorious proof that single vineyard, hand crafted wines in limited supply don’t have to be priced into the gods!
Wynns Coonawarra Estate John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, $130
One of the greatest wines to emerge from Coonawarra in the past quarter-century will live at least that long again.
Penfolds Bin 169 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, $250
This is baby Bin 620, masterminded simultaneously, from the same region, in the same vintage, from just two prized Penfolds blocks.
Penfolds Bin 620 Coonawarra Cabernet Shiraz 2008, $1,000
With a forty year life ahead of it, Bin 620 is destined to become one of Australia’s history-making prestige wines.