We tend to think of the best wines in the world as rarities—in fact, the current term for super-sought-after, once-in-a-lifetime bottles amidst the sommelier crowd is “unicorn wines.” But the truth is that there are some great wines out there that are also produced in surprisingly large quantities; and, many winemakers will tell you, it’s actually easier to make a few hundred amazing bottles from a single tiny vineyard than it is to maintain that quality over 20 or 30 thousand cases, for instance. Here are five that manage to be both mind-blowing and findable (though, unfortunately, not cheap—that goal has yet to be attained).
2011 Château Lagrange ($75). Only 61 properties are on the list of Bordeaux’s classified growths; taken together, it’s the most famous group of wineries in the world. Of them, Lagrange has the largest single vineyard, 280 acres, which yields over 23,000 cases per year of this classically cassis-scented, elegant red.
2011 Graham's Vintage Port ($95). Want a wine that can age for twenty or thirty years, no question, for less than $100? Vintage port is the answer, and the Graham's 2011, from an extraordinary year in the Douro Valley, is one of the best choices around. Layered, complex, with luscious plum, black cherry and dark chocolate notes followed by plush tannins, it's gorgeous now and will be even better in a couple of decades. And 7,000 cases of it were produced.
2011 Antinori Tignanello ($110). The grandfather of all super-Tuscans is reaching its fortieth anniversary this vintage. A blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, it has layers of flavor (smoke, ripe cherry, a little liquorice), the ability to age for decades, and there are more than 28,000 cases of it.
2004 Dom Perignon ($160). The wise men at Moet Hennessy—wise, because they understand the value of seeming rarity—keep production figures for Dom closely guarded. Industry estimates, though, put it at over 2 million bottles per year. Yet it remains spectacularly good Champagne.
2009 Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5 Ano ($199). Vega Sicilia is seen as (a) possibly Spain's greatest wine and (b) a rare wine. But in fact, Valbuena, the bodega's second bottling, is produced in quite reasonable amounts—there were 15,000 cases of this rich, mouth filling, entirely seductive red (a blend of Tempranillo with 5 percent Merlot). The wine should age easily for years, but it's very hard to resist drinking it now.