Tonight's lottery drawing for the Powerball could net one lucky winner an estimated $1.5 billion jackpot. Sure, that only comes to a cool billion or so after taxes, depending on where you live, but that isn't stopping the editors of Wine Spectator from indulging in a little lottery fantasy today. Find out which wine dreams some of our staff would fulfill with a billion-dollar windfall, and tell us your own ideas in the comments. If you need a little inspiration, check out our rundown of some of the most revered wines of the 20th century.
A billion dollars buys a lot of wine! In fact, it would probably buy any winery in the world, and maybe it would be more fun to own a great winery and keep the wine for yourself than to buy all the wine it makes.
But the first thing I’d buy? A case of Château Margaux 1953. That would cost just less than $100,000 at current auction prices (including tax and shipping).
I first fell in love with wine in Bordeaux, working as a grapepicker during the harvest of 1979. Château Margaux is one of the great estates in Bordeaux; it was a favorite of Pres. Thomas Jefferson’s, one of my heroes. The 1953 vintage was a benchmark for the region, and many people consider Château Margaux the wine of the vintage. And it’s my birth year. I would drink a bottle on every birthday, and hope that the wine and I remain vibrant, engaging and inspiring through the years.
I love great Burgundy, but I can't afford it on a regular basis. So if I were to win, I would buy it big time and throw caution to the wind. No big real-estate purchases, no big car. Just line up the premiers crus and grands crus, and let's go. I would buy for everyday drinking pleasure. My preferences lean toward Pommard and Gevrey-Chambertin for reds, and Corton-Charlemagne and Meursault for the whites. Even with a billion in the bank, I would still leave Montrachet for only special occasions! Call me cheap ….
If I won the Powerball, I'd want to take it one step beyond just buying the wine. I'd want to buy the winery! But as I'd never be presumptuous enough to take away a treasured family domaine from its owners, I'd sidestep that issue by buying a nice little house in the vineyards and then stocking the cellar with my favorites.
And I'd spread the wealth by buying a classic mas, or farmhouse, in France's Lubéron region and loading up the cellar with wines from the Rhône and Provence, in addition to a maison chartreuse-style château in the Castillon area outside St.-Emilion to load up a cellar with Bordeaux. All the wine would be in magnums and other large formats.
Oh, and you're all invited. Just not all at once.
First wine that came to mind was Clos des Papes—a vertical of its red and white, enough to share with family and friends, back as far as I can find. (The label goes back to 1896, but I'll take what I can get.) This regular in our Top 10 and one-time Wine of the Year is one of my favorite Châteauneufs—one of my favorite wines overall—as it conveys such a strong sense of place. Some years back, I had collected several vintages with the goal of assembling a deep vertical, but when the wines kept rising in price and popularity, my purchases became more intermittent. I'd love to trace the wines through their history and evolution.
I'd also want to acquire a vertical of Antinori's Tignanello, back to the super Tuscan’s first groundbreaking vintage in 1971, for my brother and his wife, since it's a favorite of theirs from their honeymoon in Italy. They keep depleting their stocks, having generously shared with me.
Then I'd spend the next several years—well, decades—traveling through every major wine region in the world, tasting as much as possible, walking the vineyards and really getting to understand the terroir and culture of each. As I went, I'd study the environmental challenges facing each region so I could support nonprofit efforts that encourage the most sustainable agriculture possible. I'd want to ensure that fine wine—and the way of life around it—continues.
I would buy enough Krug Brut Champagne Grande Cuvée to enjoy a bottle every day for the next 10 years. That adds up to $500,000! Enough left for a few vacations.
I've always wanted to work my way through a mixed case of Henri Jayer wines from a great vintage. He was my favorite vigneron in Burgundy and responsible for some of the most exquisite wines I've ever consumed. I bought a mixed case of 1985s on release in 1987 and am waiting for the right occasion to open my last bottle of Cros Parantoux. To replace that case today would cost about $100,000.
With $1.5 billion I could stockpile the 1990 and 1993 vintages (two other great ones), and do the same with all my desert-island wines, and never have to worry about how expensive they got.
If money were no obstacle, I’d spend the rest of my life traveling (comfortably!) to every wine region of the world. I’d kick the dirt in the vineyards in every place I can think of, eat the local food, buy plenty of souvenir bottles and be a generous tipper along the way.
I’d also love to create more memories for my friends and family. We’d rent out the French Laundry for my birthday, fly to Alinea for an anniversary and spend Christmas at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. Sounds like I’d also need a couple of personal trainers and massage therapists on staff, too.
I'm going to break from my colleagues and go the "teach a man to fish" route when I collect my Powerball winnings, to make some personnel changes at Maison O'Donnell. There are plenty of Masters of Wine out there, but if I'm a billionaire... I'm gonna call the Doctor. First, I will hire rogue FBI agent/informant Raymond "Red" Reddington from hit NBC crime drama The Blacklist. His services will be required to help break notorious wine fraudster Rudy Kurniawan out of Taft Correctional Institute in a daring escape. (The guards would be fooled by a "counterfeit human" under Kurniawan's bedsheets, fashioned from pilfered pillows and aprons from the prison mess hall where Kurniawan works.) Living under an assumed name, Kurniawan could ply his trade in my employ. And I would be able to enjoy my favorite vintages of Clos de la Roche and Romanée-Conti whenever I wished.
Of course, I'm being about as serious as my chances of winning $1.5 billion. But I would buy those classic old wines (the real ones)—Burgundy, Bordeaux, 18th-century Madeira—to share with friends in wine. It's been said that an upcoming generation of wine lovers have a wealth of wine choices, but lack the wealth to ever get an education in how, say, 1940s Beaulieu Georges de Latour fits into the canon of our shared wine history. And I doubt I'd have much trouble finding friends.