By: Kristine Hansen
Wine auctions feature perennial favorites that pop up so regularly bidders come to expect them; cue Screaming Eagle, Dom Perignon, or Chateau Margaux. Hunting down unexpected, lesser-known gems can really pay off.
If you’re a connoisseur, detouring from the usual suspects might seem like a risk. But you might stumble upon a new-to-you wine or, most excitingly, completely change your buying decisions going forward.
Here are 12 wines that are not typically sought out, but should be. With this mix of ready-to-drink-now wines and those poised for aging, you have some options to uncork for dinner guests or stow away for a future wedding anniversary.
1985 Jacquesson Champagne (Champagne, France)
With more than 200 years of wine production (since 1798) under its belt, Jacquesson is a big name that often gets crowded out by famed Champagnes like Krug and Dom Perignon. But there is a lesser-known link: the founder of Krug got his feet wet working here, at what is considered the oldest independent Champagne house.
1967 Domaine Leroy Cotes de Beaune-Villages Pinot Noir (Burgundy, France)
Domaine Leroy is among the most expensive wines produced in Cotes de Beaune-Villages. While 1967 in Burgundy isn’t its most standout vintage, it’s still special to drink a nearly 50-year-old wine. The 1966 vintage from one year earlier ranks among the region’s best.
1998 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore (Tuscany, Italy)
A hit with wine critics upon its 2001 release (scores were 93+), this Super Tuscan wine was a standout vintage in 1998. Having already aged 17 years, it’s ready to be sipped.
1992 Quinta do Passadouro Port (Porto, Portugal)
A Port from Portugal might be cliché but an aged option is not as common. Time in the bottle — even just 23 years — further expresses the Port’s delightful nuances. The grapes are grown on the left bank of the Pinhão River in the famed Douro Valley.
1985 Taittinger Champagne Roy Lichtenstein (Champagne, France)
In honor of Pop Art artist Roy Lichtenstein, the vivid bottle alone is a collectible, but savvy wine drinkers know Taittinger never fails to disappoint. This 30-year-old bubbly is no exception. The Collection series, of which this is a part, is reserved only for quality vintages, including 1985.
2008-2010 Shafer Vineyards “Hillside Select” Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley, California)
Tucked into the esteemed Stag’s Leap District, this dates back to 1972 and has delivered nothing short of consistent quality with its Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, in blind tastings it’s outshone Chateau Margaux— considered one of the world’s best expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon.
2010-2011 (or 2008-2011) Cayuse Vineyards Syrah (Walla Walla, Washington)
Favoring a biodynamic approach, Cayuse was launched after the son of a winery in Champagne interned in this region during the 1990s. Cayuse specializes in a vast selection of varietals like Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, and Grenache, grown in its 45-acre vineyard.
2001 or 2003 Araujo Estate Wines Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley, California)
Made from fruit grown organically and biodynamically in the Calistoga and Napa Valley AVAs in the northern end of Napa Valley, Araujo is a quieter cult winery. Just 2,000 cases are made annually. The 2001 vintage was proclaimed by Wine Enthusiast to be the best vintage of California Cabernet Sauvignon ever.
2007 Peter Michael Winery ‘Les Pavots’ (Napa Valley, California)
This blend of Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot are grown in the 64-acre Les Pavots vineyard on the west side of Mount St. Helena. It is a reminder of the stellar 2007 vintage in Napa Valley. With a little more time in the cellar, it can be even greater.
2007 Dancing Hares Vineyard (Napa Valley, California)
Another blend of Bordeaux grapes, and from another spectacular vintage, Dancing Hare Vineyards is in a prime spot of real estate at the base of Howell Mountain. In June, the owners put the property on the market for $25 million so score a souvenir before the company turns over.
Meukow Cognac (Matha, France)
Founded by Russians, Meukow Cognac has been in business for just over 150 years, building up its brand and unleashing a signature black-panther bottle time and time again. The palate gets better with age, so it’s best to put this one away for a while.
2009 Abreu Vineyards Thorevilos (Napa Valley, California)
Located in Yountville, a stone’s throw from Thomas Keller’s eateries, there’s a waitlist for current releases of the winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon blends. One reason is limited production; another is that Abreu sources fruit only from the best regions for his Cabernet Sauvignon blends, including Thorevilos. This is the ninth vintage. Winery founder David Abreu is the real deal: he’s been hired to replant vineyards for Screaming Eagle.
About Kristine Hansen
A wine writer since 2004, Kristine Hansen is the Wine Editor for a restaurant-industry magazine and also contributes wine/travel coverage to numerous publications like Wine Enthusiast and Conde Nast Traveler’s website. She has visited many wine regions, including Bordeaux and Napa Valley.