Christian Vanneque and the world's most expensive bottle of white wine

Christian Vanneque and the world's most expensive bottle of white wine

Head to Bali for beaches, great food and a glimpse of a US$117,000 bottle of 1811 Château d'Yquem
Nope, that's not the US$117,000 bottle of wine. That's just another rare bottle enjoyed by wine connoisseur Christian Vanneque.

For 62-year-old Christian Vanneque, a love of wine has taken him to one particularly unexpected place: the Guinness Book of World Records.

Vanneque became the owner of the most expensive bottle of white wine ever sold when he paid US$117,000 for a bottle of 1811 Château d'Yquem earlier this year.

The gaudy buy caps an impressive wine-industry career.

At the tender age of 20, Vanneque was head sommelier at Paris’ famed three-Michelin star La Tour d’Argent, making him France’s youngest chef sommelier, and in charge, at the time, of the largest restaurant wine cellar in the world.

In 1976, Vanneque was one of the judges at the historic May 24, 1976, Paris Wine Tasting, organized by Steven Spurrier. The Judgment of Paris, as it became known, was a blind tasting in which nine French judges shocked the industry by choosing unknown California wines over France’s best, altering the image of wine forever.

For Vanneque, who admits his purchase is a “petite folie,” the house of Yquem holds sentimental value. He’d discovered them as a young sommelier and also owns bottles of Yquems from 1959, 1951 and 1967.

The wine connoisseur, who also boasts the biggest wine collection in Indonesia, won't be hiding his latest purchase. He plans on showing off the bottle of 1811 Château d'Yquem at his new Bali restaurant SIP Sunset Grill (Sunset Road no.88x, Seminyak, Bali, tel +62 361 8475830) where he hopes “not just to produce the most energetic and fun wine list, but also the least expensive.”

The irony.

Here, he talks about his prized acquisition.

The 1811 bottle of Chateau d'Yquem is considered a "comet vintage" for appearing in the same year as the Great Comet of 1811.

CNNGo: When you bought the 1811 Château d'Yquem, did you realize that you'd set a Guinness World Record?

Christian Vanneque: [Laughs] Honestly, I didn't realize [at the time] I’d bought the most expensive bottle of wine in the world … I can tell you though, that it is the most expensive bottle of wine for me.

CNNGo: You paid US$117,000, That's quite an extravagance.

Vanneque: It is a petite folie, something I offer myself as I’ve worked hard for it.

CNNGo: How do you plan on storing it?

Vanneque: It will be housed at my new restaurant SIP Sunset Grill in a bulletproof, temperature and hygrometrically controlled showcase. The bottle will be kept at 16-17 degrees Celsius, and will only open using authorized fingerprint recognition.

CNNGo: Would you ever considering selling it?

Vanneque: No, I have no plans to sell it. I want to love and cherish it for a time and be able to drink it, and be part of the whole experience.

CNNGo: How do you plan on drinking it?

Vanneque: I want to open the bottle in six years time in August 2017.

I will open it at La Tour d’Argent with my wife, my brother, two of my best friends, Andre Terrail and David Ridgeway, the current owner and sommelier of La Tour d’Argent, and Stephen Williams, the managing director of The Antique Wine Company who sold me the bottle.

The time chosen also marks the fiftieth anniversary since I started working at L’Tour d’Argent. This place gave my schooling in the art of living.

CNNGo: What will you pair the wine with?

Vanneque: The restaurant is famous for its foie gras, so I would start with that and some Roquefort cheese. It will be a subtle complement to the sauterne appellation.

CNNGo: Can anyone appreciate wine?

Vanneque: Yes, you just need training and to use the lab of the senses. Training the palate is like being a juggler in a circus -- you need to train it everyday.

CNNGo: What are your current wine recommendations?

Vanneque: For daily drinking, the best value would be Rhone Valley wines.

New world wines, like those from South Africa, have also made tremendous progress in the past 10 years.

I would also recommend the wines from Château de la Tuilerie region, they’re good quality and value, especially because of the white viognier grapes.

CNNGo: What global wine trends are you observing?

Vanneque: Globally there is a trend to taste wines from the new world. They’re more palatable, and you don’t have to wait too long to drink them.

Also, floral, sweet white wines and big reds with high alcohol content are particularly popular.

CNNGo: Bali has been your home for the past 10 years. Which restaurants do you recommend?

Vanneque: Metis. Make sure you try the foie gras there, it is a superbly prepared. (Jalan Petitenget, no.6 Kerobokan, Kelod; tel +62 361 4737888)

The Living Room for a good tenderloin. (Jalan Petitenget, no.2000xx Kerobokan, Kuta ; tel +62 361 735735)

Sardine for the freshest fish prepared in different ways. (Jalan Petitenget, no.21 Kerobokan, Kelod; tel +62 361 84361111)

Sarong for delicious Thai-Indonesian style cuisine. (Jalan Petitenget No. 19x, Kerobokan, tel +62 361 4737809)

Café Degan for great Thai food that is simple and not too pricey. (Jalan Raya Petitenget 9, Kerobokan; tel +62 361 8893271)


SIP Sunset Grill

Sunset Road no. 88x, Seminyak 80361, Bali, tel +62 361 8475830

In between sunning herself in the Caribbean, Bali and other exotic locales, Charlene Fang keeps her feet (and fingers) grounded as the managing editor of She blames her wanderlust on the years spent working as the editor of CNNGo Singapore and Time Out Singapore. Her ramblings have also been published by the likes of Travel+Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, Wallpaper*, ELLE and The Australian.

Read more about Charlene Fang