Many wine aficionados speak of “the one” — a bottle so amazing, so unforgettable, it ignited a passion, and for some, a career.
Though these are often very rare, VinePair asked beverage professionals to share the most memorable bottles they’ve encountered. The result, along with our own yearning, is a list so vivid, you’ll forget it’s wine you’re reading about, and not masterpieces of fine art.
“There are two wines that will always hold a special place for me. I once tasted a 2008 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti. Tasting a wine like that is a rare opportunity. In 2017, I visited Greece and had the experience of a lifetime while dining with Argyris Gerovassiliou, the second generation of Ktima Gerovassiliou. We had an incredible meal on the estate and he shared a magnum of 1994 Estate Red with me.” — Ronald Buyukliev, Lead Sommelier, Estiatorio Milos, Las Vegas, NV
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“Krug Champagne Vintage 1996. It was an ‘aha’ moment for me: ‘So this is what good Champagne tastes like!’ There is a level of depth, intensity, and exotic flavors in this wine that put it so far above the norm. The finish lingers for so long. It is the gift that keeps on giving. Just truly a spectacular wine. One of the reasons I have ‘Champagne’ tattooed on my body!” — Jan Bugher, Manager and Wine Director, Bluebeard, Indianapolis, IN
“The most memorable wine I drank was Dassai Beyond, solely because it set me back $1,000 and I felt its financial repercussions for a while after. However, the bottle that is truly tenacious in my memory is the one I first tried at the Manhattan sake bar Sakagura more than 15 years ago when I was just able to drink legally: Watari Bune Junmai Daiginjo. From Ibaraki prefecture, this sake is made from the heirloom rice varietal watari bune and is hyper-aromatic with an onslaught of honeydew and papaya on the nose. But what really seared into my memory was its texture, a graceful ebullience that draws me back to this bottle again and again, to this very day.” — Leo Le, Sake Sommelier, Uchu, New York, NY
“Hard to pick just one, but I had the pleasure of tasting an 1896 Riesling at Bassermann-Jordan in the Pfalz region of Germany. Being able to taste something that had survived so much for so long was incredible. The wine itself was alive and well, but oxidized quickly after opening, making it that much more fascinating. It was there, and gone in an instant!” — Matthew Pridgen, Wine Director, Underbelly Hospitality, Houston, TX
“The most memorable wine I’ve ever had was my first birth year wine. It was a 1987 Heitz Cellars Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. It was the first time in my life I made a deep connection from that wine to my life. I thought about what the year was like, what stage of its life cycle the vine was in when I was born, what the winemaker might have been thinking that June. It truly showed me the multifaceted and human aspect of wine.” — Ashley Broshious, Restaurant Manager and Head Sommelier, Zero Restaurant + Bar, Charleston, SC
“Believe it or not, I got my paws on a 1982 Château Latour in about 2000. I don’t think I was even 21 yet, and it was the first bottle I ever spent $100 on. It’s an auction item now, a legend, somewhere around $2,000. It was forgotten and passed over in the locked case in this liquor store, and it was a bottle you would now refer to as ‘dusty.’ It was laying down in a 45-degree display and the fill level and cork looked good, so after a few visits, I finally bought it. It’s ridiculous that I got it at that price, but it went to a good home because it was appreciated. It really sang, and it was perfect in every way. I have had other perfect wines and spirits since then, but none were as memorable. That said, the Laphroaig 25-year Cask Strength from a few years back comes close.” — Jeremy Allen, Certified Sommelier and General Manager, MiniBar Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA
“It was a Roberto Henríquez, ‘Rivera del Notro Blanco.’ The wine is Moscatel, Corinto, and Semillon from Chile. I respond very strongly to very aromatic wines. As soon as I took a smell out of the glass, I had a strong feeling of nostalgia from my childhood. It instantly took me back to growing up in Bogotá, Colombia and going to the market to get produce for lunch every day. As soon as you step into any produce market there, you are inundated with the smell of tropical fruit skins, followed by the scent of the herbs that are stored toward the back of the market. This wine reflected those smells, and on the palate those notes come through as well while being paired with fresh acidity and the presence of light tannins from the skin contact.” — Eileen Chiang, Beverage Director/Assistant General Manager, Wayan, New York, NY
“A Château La Calisse Provence Rosé — I previously worked for winemaker Claude Thibaut of Charlottesville, Va., and one of my favorite wine memories was drinking this beautiful wine with him in his backyard as we grilled shrimp with the late-afternoon sun shining through the trees onto his patio.” — Matthew Emborski, Sommelier, Hilton Norfolk The Main, Norfolk, VA
“1947 Huet Vouvray ‘Le Haut Lieu’ was a definite light bulb moment for me in my wine journey. The incredible balance of fruit, sugar, and acid in a near-70-year-old white wine blew my mind and kick-started my deep love (bordering on obsession) of Chenin Blanc.” — Andrew Pattison, Wine Director, Sushi Note, Sherman Oaks, CA
“My first sip of Amarone, and I was an instant fan. I can recall my reaction after that glass, ‘Wine can be like this?!’ At the time, Amarone was a bit out of vogue and considered the older generation’s drink. The rich, viscous, robust bomb of dried fruits was right up my alley and has always been one of my favorites for special occasions or for movie night on a cold rainy evening.” — Mohammad Rahman, Wine and Spirits Director, Kata Robata, Houston, TX