Denman's Choice

The Two Greatest Wines in History?

Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1870 Magnum For Web
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1945 Romanee Conti Wine For Web

The Two Greatest Wines in History?
(Except for the Wines at the Wedding in Cana in 30 AD)

by renowned wine writer Denman Moody
and published in Memorial Lifestyle Magazine, River Oaks Lifestyle Magazine, October 2023 and reprinted by permission

Denman Moody is a treasure. If you love wine, and you’re on a mission to understand the subject at a deep level, he’s the person to know. Denman was already a wine aficionado before many of us took our first sip. A native Houstonian and a UT School of Law graduate, he caught the wine bug early on while serving as assistant to U.S, Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas. Denman has written for La Revue du Vin de France, The International Wine & Food Society Journal in London, Wine Spectactor, Wine & Spirits Magazine, and many others. He is the author of the celebrated The Advance Oenophile. The Social Book is proud to have his participation in our website and leather-bound book, and welcome his storytelling, perspective and his wine-based wisdom!

The Two Greatest Wines in History?

Most wine connoisseurs agree that a magnum is superior to a standard bottle for aging great vintages from Bordeaux and Burgundy.  It is generally accepted that a jeroboam—four bottles in one in Burgundy—is also superior for aging than a regular bottle.

Unbelievably, my wife and I are among probably no more than five or ten living persons who have tasted both wines.  Here is the evidence.

The 1870 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild in Magnum

I believe it was 1970 when my late friend Michael Broadbent, former Chairman of the Wine Department at Christie’s in London, author of “Michael Broadbent’s Vintage Wines:  Fifty Years of Tasting Three Centuries of Wines,” published in 2002, and arguably the most knowledgeable person in the world regarding great wines, visited the Glamis Castle Cellar to see what could be great auction items for Christie’s. He found forty-two magnums of this wine in original wax seals, embossed “Coningham”.

In the original Glamis Castle cellar book, it was written that an additional forty-eight standard bottles had been bought by the 13th Earl of Strathmore and binned there in 1878.  The wine was so astringent (harsh tannins) that the Earl did not like it, and when he died (around 1913, Broadbent guessed), the wine was virtually untouched, and his successors left it alone. In fact, Broadbent said that it took a full fifty years to become mellow enough to drink. An agreement was made for Christie’s to sell the wines.

Michael tasted one of the magnums with about a dozen client connoisseurs, and it had perfect balance and flavor. He has stated, including personally to me, that Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 1870 in magnum from Glamis Castle is the greatest wine he ever tasted.

Of the forty-one magnums sold shortly afterwards in the early ‘70s, and a magnum generally serves eight or ten people at a dinner party, (41 times 10=410), it is possible that less than 500 people tasted this wine; however, since it has been fifty-one years since the sale, many of those fortunate few have died. My guess is that there are less than 200 or so alive today.

My wife and I shared a magnum in the early ‘80s at a magnificent dinner held by Houston’s and possibly America’s most brilliant (actually a savant) Bordeaux expert, Lenoir Josey. I believe he had purchased six magnums at the original sale at Christie’s. It was and still is the greatest Bordeaux I have experienced, including almost all the First Growths from the great vintages. For example, see “The Renaissance of Chateau Margaux” in my award-winning book, “The Advanced Oenophile”, in which I describe the following vintages of Chateau Margaux, tasted in Houston with the owner, Corrine Mentzelopolous and France’s most famous wine consultant at the time, Emile Peynaud, ’21, ’24, ’26, ’28, ’29, ’45, ’47, ’49, ’59, ’61 and numerous other vintages back to 1875.

A bottle of 1870 Lafite sold for $80,275 at Zachy’s March 30, 2019 auction at Le Bernardin Privé in Manhattan.  I believe that a magnum from Glamis Castle, if any are left, would sell today for at least $250,000.   

Romanée-Conti Jeroboam 1945

At a recent auction, a standard bottle of this wine sold for slightly over $500,000.  So, theoretically, a jeroboam would bring over $2,000,000!

My wife and I were fortunate to attend the late Dr. Frank Komorowski’s fiftieth birthday dinner in 1995 at La Française in Vermillion, Ohio.  He had been collecting 1945s in large format bottles for years. The full menu, which I called “Dinner of the Century,” is on pages 255 and 256 of my book, “The Advanced Oenophile.” It would be impossible to reproduce today, even for a billionaire.

Even though Michael Broadbent said in the aforementioned book that no 1945 jeroboams were recorded as produced, Frank said that three were produced and he had two of them and served one at this dinner. He had flown Wolfgang Puck from California to assist the French chef at the restaurant, and the dish that accompanied this wine was a mushroom risotto with white truffle shavings from Alba.

In his book, Michael said this was the last of the ungrafted vines at Romanée-Conti (from the phylloxera epidemic of the 1860s-1870s). He also said one bottle of this wine was the outstanding wine of an incredible three-day Burgundy tasting held in San Francisco and hosted by Wilf Jaeger, and on his rating scale, of which five stars is the highest, he gave it six stars!  Since he tasted this wine just before the above book was published in 2002, and he had told me about the Lafite many years before that, it may have become his favorite wine. It is probably safe to say this was his favorite Burgundy (even though just in a standard bottle) and the Glamis Castle Lafite in magnum was his favorite Bordeaux.

There were about thirty attendees at the dinner my wife and I attended in 1995. I imagine Frank served his other jeroboam at his sixtieth birthday dinner in 2005. Since we were among the youngest at the first dinner, and I imagine at his sixtieth, the crowd was even older, there might be thirty or so still with us who have tasted this wine. The odds are great that less than five or ten of these would have also experienced a magnum of 1870 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild from the Glamis Castle Cellar, where they had been stored perfectly for almost 100 years.

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Denman Moody

Social Book Contributor

Denman is a wine writer and wine entertainer/educator since 1978. He has hosted hundreds of charitable events, sales events, gourmet dinners and wine tastings everywhere from Australia to Europe to Canada, Hawaii and all over the mainland U.S. Check him out at his website, particularly "Dinner of the Decade" at
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