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When it comes to wines, there is nothing more alluring than the fabled unicorn wines. These rare and hard-to-find bottles are often spoken of in hushed tones; their very existence seeming like a myth.
Unicorn wines may be limited edition runs or from a specific vineyard that only produces a small amount each year. Regardless of the reasons for their rarity, these best unicorn wines are highly coveted by collectors and enthusiasts alike.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: 1995 Sine Qua Non 'Queen of Hearts' Rosé
Best Aging Potential: 2015 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti Grand Cru
Best Deep Flavors: 2002 Azienda Agricola Valentini Montepulciano D'Abruzzo
1. Best Overall: 1995 Sine Qua Non 'Queen of Hearts' Rosé
Sine Qua Non's inaugural rosé was a groundbreaking effort by cult winemakers Manfred and Elaine Krankl. In 1995, they created 300 bottles of Queen of Hearts, which were never meant for commercial use. So, the Krankls gifted them to close friends and business partners.
Surprisingly, some recipients put their wines up for sale, and they quickly fetched a high price. The bottles are neither available in stores nor through the winery's exclusive mailing list. Only a few of these Californian bottles show up every once in a while and are sold at auctions.
Since Queen of Hearts is frequently regarded as too rare to be consumed, only a little is known about how it tastes. Additionally, most collectors want to keep this wine as a work of art rather than an evening indulgence.
Country of Origin: USA | Est. Price: $43,000 - $100,000 | Grape: Grenache
Related: The Best Rosé Champagnes
2. Runner-Up: 1993 Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru
This vintage is the prized possession of Madame Lalou Bize Leroy from Domaine Leroy in Burgundy. She has an in-depth understanding of the terroirs she works with and made waves when she introduced biodynamics to her vineyards in 1988.
Production levels are often low as these natural wine labels have very small-scale production lots. In fact, only approximately two barrels are used every batch for rare vintages, including the 1993 vintage.
We love that the expression of the terroir is brought to its full potential in the 1993 Musigny Grand Cru. This full-bodied and lively Grand Cru is laden with fruity and spicy flavors, a floral bouquet, and an exquisitely silky texture.
Country of Origin: France | Est. Price: $15,500 - $25,500 | Grape: Pinot Noir | Tasting Notes: Blackberry, red cherry, perfumy, tannic
Related: The Best Organic Red Wines
3. Best Time-Honored: 1821 Grand Constance
1821 Grand Constance beside books and decanter - Image by Cape Fine and Rare Wine Auction
The Grand Constance 1821 was created for Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte when he was exiled to the island of Saint Helena. Unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough to taste the wine, as the grapes were still ripening at his death.
The grapes were harvested late to achieve maximum sweetness, 30+ years before the Great French Wine Blight. In 1883, it was decanted in France.
Today, there are fewer than 12 bottles left. With its 200+ age, we understand why this historic wine was sold for R420,000 (South African Rands) at the Cape Fine and Rare Wine Auction in Stellenbosch in May 2021. And in September 2021, another bottle was sold at Strauss & Co Auction for R967,300.
Country of Origin: France | Est. Price: $24,000 - $56,000 | Grape: Muscadel and Pontac | Tasting Notes: Honey, hazelnuts
Related: The Best Sweet Red Wines
4. Most Complex: 1921 Chateau Cheval Blanc
The top wines produced in Saint-Emilion in 1921, including those made by Chateau Cheval Blanc, benefited from a stellar harvest year.
The extreme heat during the harvest caused the grapes' sugars to concentrate, creating wines of outstanding depth and complexity. After 101 years, we are impressed that the 1921 Chateau Cheval Blanc still boasts its pleasant blend of sweetness and acidity.
Tastewise, the drink explodes with fruit, smoke, chocolate, and more. It is well-rounded and has a full body with an exceptionally long finish. Due to the acid tension, the wine's complex aromas also stay rich and fresh.
Country of Origin: France | ABV: 14.2% | Est. Price: $31,500 - $38,000 | Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc | Tasting Notes: Oak, dried figs, leather, bacon
Related: The Best Dry Red Wines
5. Best Story: 1907 Heidsieck & Co Monopole Gout Americain Brut
1907 Heidsieck & Co Monopole with a certificate of genuineness - Image by The Wine Auction Room
In 1916, a Swedish schooner called Jönköping smuggled wine cases bound for Russia for Nicholas II. However, the vessel was struck by a German submarine, and the wines sank in Finland.
Among the wines were Champagnes from Heidsieck & Co Monopole. They have been maturing for almost a century, 60–65 meters below the surface of the Baltic Sea. In 1997, the ship was discovered, and hundreds of bottles were salvaged and tasted.
Some bottles were labeled “Goût Américain” (for American taste), and suspected to be sweeter, which helped in maturing the wines. Some of the opened ones had varying flavors and were initially flat, but after an hour of air exposure, the flavors came alive and had more depth.
Country of Origin: France | Est. Price: $2,300 - $4,700 | Grape: Champagne Blend | Tasting Notes: Honey, toast, dried fruit, marmalade
Related: The Best French Champagnes
6. Best Rich Flavor: 2005 Clos Rougeard Saumur Champigny
2005 Clos Rougeard Saumur Champigny with wine glass and cork - Image by La Passion Duvin
This vintage gained its unicorn wine title with its exceptional quality. It mainly became famous for being the “game changer” of Loire’s line of Cabernet Francs, which had a bad rap among Americans due to their green or unripe taste.
In 2005, the region was blessed with great sunny weather. This made the grapes ripe and concentrated, resulting in exceptional wines.
Because this is a young vintage, its qualities are still developing and will need more time to blossom. We recommend this bottle if you’re looking to age wine, but if you want to indulge right away, it will require hours of decanting.
Country of Origin: France | Est. Price: $100-$360 | Grape: Cabernet Franc | Tasting Notes: Red fruits, cassis, truffles, vanilla, tobacco
7. Best for Light Dishes: 2002 Domaine Leflaive Montrachet Grand Cru
Leflaive is one of the oldest Domaines in Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy, dating back to 1717. It’s known for being one of the best producers of Chardonnay white wines in the world and as one of the pioneers of biodynamic viticulture.
Among their prominent appellations is Montrachet, which means "scabby hill." It is called such because of the rocky Grand Cru plot on the Côte de Beaune, where it originates.
The 2002 Montrachet spent 12 months aging in new wood and another 6 months in once-used oak before being bottled. It is a magnificent example of the Chardonnay varietal: full-bodied and robust, with a nuanced flavor profile and crisp acidity.
Country of Origin: France | Est. Price: $7,300-$9,4000 | Grape: Chardonnay | Tasting Notes: Butterscotch, toffee, and citrus
Related: The Different Types of White Wine
8. Most Elegant: 1996 Raymond Trollat St Joseph
1996 Raymond Trollat St Joseph - Image by iDealwine
Raymond Trollat is heavily associated with the appellation St.Joseph in Rhône due to his iconic wines. His vineyards are quite small, but they go way back to his father and grandfather. With no heirs by his retirement in 2005, he sold a portion of his vineyards to the Gonon Brothers.
Syrah's characteristics in Raymond's wines are authentic, elegant, and vibrant. This is why even after Trollat’s retirement, his wines are still well-regarded and in high demand.
The 1996 vintage offers scents of various spices, cured pork, and salted black olives, while the palate features purple flowers and dark fruit. We recommend pairing this unicorn wine with grilled steak or cheese.
Country of Origin: France | ABV: 12.4% | Est. Price: $1,129 | Grape: Syrah/Shiraz | Tasting Notes: Licorice, leather, black currant, raspberry
Related: The Best Wine and Cheese Pairings
9. Best Silky Texture: 1928 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac
Despite being relatively more affordable than other First Growth Bordeaux wines, it’s still difficult to get your hands on the Chateau Mouton Rothschild Pauillac because of its 90+ age. It was produced from an even older estate that has been passed down to generations.
During the mid-1920s, the estate was under Philippe de Rothschild, who was the first producer to bottle wines right on the estate.
The 1928 wine is highly aromatic, with a full mouthfeel and long finish. We like that it emits deep smells of dark fruit, tobacco, and mint. The austere nature of its flavor is what you would anticipate from a wine of this age.
Country of Origin: France | ABV: 13% | Est. Price: $2,300-$5,000 | Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon | Tasting Notes: Earthy, tobacco, cedar, blackberry, floral
Related: The Best Cabernet Sauvignons
10. Best with Meat Dishes: 1985 Marius Gentaz-Dervieux Cote Rotie Cote Brune
This delicious red wine is considered the best bottle by Marius Gentaz-Dervieux, a legendary winemaker in Côte-Rôtie, Rhône. In 1993, Gentaz retired and bequeathed his 1.52-hectare Domaine to his niece.
She was not a winemaker, but her husband was, so they integrated her uncle’s Domaine with Domaine René Rostaing. Even after Gentaz’s death in 2011, his wines retained their high status because of their name, quality, and scarcity.
We adore the freshness and youthful vibe of this unicorn wine. The Syrah expression leans more toward earthiness than older Syrah wines' typical herb and bacon flavors. It also has a pleasant silky texture, paired with deep black fruit flavors and spices, perfect for red meat dishes.
Country of Origin: France | ABV: 12.5% | Est. Price: $3,000-$7,000 | Grape: Syrah/ Shiraz | Tasting Notes: Dry and floral with cassis and raspberries
Related: What is a Dry Red Wine?
11. Best Minerality: 1990 JF Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru
Jean-François Coche is the third generation of a line of winemakers who took over the Domaine in the 1970s. Over time, he incorporated his wife’s surname, Dury, into the estate’s name.
The highly regarded winery has been using grapes sourced at the Corton-Charlemagne vineyard to create one of the most luxurious white wines in the world since 1986. Like all their wines, their 1990 Grand Cru was made using Coche’s signature vinification.
The grapes underwent gentle crushing and pressing, and the lees were occasionally stirred when the wine was fermenting in oak barrels, a portion of which should be new yearly. The resulting wine boasts full-bodied flavors, elegant aromas, and a pleasant minerality.
Country of Origin: France | Est. Price: $3,500-$11,500 | Grape: Chardonnay | Tasting Notes: Green apple, anise, white blossoms, brioche, nuts
Related: The Best Dry White Wines
This vintage comes from Clos De La Marechale, one of the most prestigious vineyards known for remarkable Pinot Noirs in Nuits-Saint-Georges, Burgundy. The marl-like soil in this sub-region is dense due to its high iron content, giving the grapes a robust character.
We are impressed with the gentle minerality of the flavor and aroma of this unicorn wine, paired with tannins and succulent red fruit complexities. If you want to experience the distinctive floral character of this wine, the producer recommends waiting between 2020-2040 before opening it.
Country of Origin: France | ABV: 13% | Est. Price: $280-$330 | Grape: Pinot Noir | Tasting Notes: Red berries, black cherries, cocoa, earthy
Related: The Famous Wine Regions in France
13. Best Aging Potential: 2015 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti Grand Cru
The Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, or DRC, is one of the biggest names in the wine world, known for its expensive and impeccable wines. Their flagship is the Romanée-Conti, the most exclusive and highest quality.
The 2015 vintage is regarded by the domain’s co-owner, Aubert de Villaine, as his best creation. That year was remarkable for his vineyards because they remained healthy despite the hot weather, resulting in perfectly ripe and fresh grapes.
All those qualities are harmoniously reflected in the wine's fruity and spicy characteristics. These are then rounded out by elegant tannins and end with a long finish. We recommend this bottle if you intend to age unicorn wines for many years.
Country of Origin: France | Est. Price: $35,000-$65,000 | Grape: Pinot Noir | Tasting Notes: Raspberry, plum, rose, orange, pepper, tea
Related: The Most Expensive Wines
14. Best Aromas: 2011 Monier-Perréol Saint-Joseph Laliefine
Jean-Pierre Monier, the vigneron of the stunning estate known as Domaine Monier Perréol, has been engaged in biodynamic farming and natural vinifications with minimum use of sulfur dioxide since 1996. As a result, his wines are exquisite, vibrant, and natural.
The estate is located in the town of Saint Désirat and produces masterpieces that reflect their rich terroir. The 2011 vintage has flavors of highly ripe fruit, floral aromas, and refreshing acidity. Being young, we recommend decanting this unicorn wine first to release all its complexities.
Country of Origin: France | ABV: 13% | Est. Price: $125-$1,000 | Grape: Shiraz/Syrah | Tasting Notes: Black pepper, plum, roasted meat, lavender, earthy
Related: The Best Wine Decanting Sets
15. Best Natural: 2011 Pierre Overnoy Poulsard Arbois Pupillin
Pierre Overnoy is one of the most celebrated winemakers in Jura, who has advocated for eliminating sulfur dioxide in crafting wine since the late 1960s. Organic farming and carefully managed harvests are the keys to the estate's success.
Upon his retirement in 2001, he entrusted his estate to Emmanuel Houillon, his protégé since 1990. Houillon now runs the winery with his wife, Anne, and both are known for keeping a tight rein on distribution since annual grape harvests are typically low.
The 2011 vibrant vintage boasts vivid red fruits with subtle tannins. We like how it immediately has the complex aromas of a well-aerated wine and an elegant personality overall.
Country of Origin: France | ABV: 12.5% | Est. Price: $385-$500 | Grape: Poulsard | Tasting Notes: Cherry, strawberry, orange, herbs
Related: The Best Wine Aerators
16. Best Deep Flavors: 2002 Azienda Agricola Valentini Montepulciano D'Abruzzo
In Abruzzo, you'll find the historic estate of Valentini, which is widely considered one of the best wineries in Italy. Its former owner, Edoardo Valentini, was known as “The Lord of the Vines” because of his outstanding Abruzzo wines.
When he died in 2006, he was succeeded by his son Francesco. While the estate’s white wine from the Trebbiano grape is its most famous product, the Montepulciano d'Abruzzo is a top-tier Italian red worthy of the unicorn title.
The grape's gamy notes contribute to the wine’s rustic character. It is filled with deep smoky tastes paired with herbs, spices, and tannins to round out the fruit flavors.
Country of Origin: Italy | ABV: 14% | Est. Price: $350-$435 | Grape: Montepulciano | Tasting Notes: Plum, juniper, black pepper, chocolate, smoked meat, tobacco
17. Best Aperitif: 2013 Domaine des Miroirs Sonorite du Vent Les Saugettes
Close-up of Domaine des Miroirs Sonorite du Vent 2013 - Image by Greg Sherwood MW
Another icon in Jura is Japanese winemaker Kenjiro Kagami, who owns three hectares of land in the Grusse region with his wife, Mayumi. He studied in France for over 10 years and was mentored by two wine veterans, Thierry Allemand and Bruno Schueller.
His Domaine des Miroirs Sonorite du Vent 2013 Les Saugettes is a prime example of the exceptional rarity and quality he has become known for in the Jura winemaking community.
The wine is an exceptionally nuanced reflection of the Jura region: well-rounded, harmonious, and refreshing. We also love the strong minerality and citrus flavors that fill the mouth, complemented with a satisfying salinity.
Country of Origin: France | ABV: 12.5% | Est. Price: $400-$685 | Grape: Chardonnay | Tasting Notes: Minerals, apple, pear, orange
Related: What is an Aperitif?
If you're looking for a rare and special wine, unicorn wines are definitely worth seeking. And with a little help from our team, you'll be able to track down the perfect bottle for your next special occasion.
We named the 1995 Sine Qua Non 'Queen of Hearts' Rosé our top pick because of its extreme scarcity, back story, and mysterious taste. So what are you waiting for? Start your search for unicorn wines today!
Best Unicorn Wines Buying Guide
As exclusive as unicorn wines are, one may still have preferences for their particular qualities. Allow these factors to guide your hunt for the best unicorn wines:
One factor contributing to unicorn wines’ extreme quality is the grapes they’re made. Most unicorn wines still use the same varieties as ordinary wines, such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah/Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon, except their quality is much higher.
Usually, these grapes are grown naturally in soil of great conditions, with low intervention and low yield. They are also harvested at peak ripeness to take advantage of the development of deep and complex flavors.
Some wineries use lesser-known grapes but still possess unique and fascinating attributes.
From cultivating grapes to aging the wine, the whole process is crucial in making unicorn wines the most coveted vinos.
It starts with how grapes are grown, wherein winemakers can be very strategic about where to plant them. While they are grown in tiny plots of land, this area may have the best soil, climate, and condition, giving the fruits the highest quality.
When it comes to vinification, winemakers have unique styles and methods to make the best out of the grapes. Then it’s all about waiting for the wines to age and develop multifaceted flavors.
For a wine to achieve unicorn status, the winemaker must be either retired or deceased. But this rule may not always apply since some active winemakers still contribute to producing these rare wine bottles.
Unicorn wines with the most intriguing backstories are one of the greatest, which can stem from the creators’ vision and inspiration. Most enthusiasts find it compelling to know the winemakers’ journey in crafting their precious bottles, which adds to the wine’s appeal.
If you look up to a particular winemaker, or perhaps you’ve been keeping updated with their work, you can search for their wine bottles to add to your collection.
But given unicorn wines are elusive, you may not find what you seek. Be spontaneous, look for a bottle made by an unknown winemaker, and get acquainted with their work. Who knows? It may turn out to be your new favorite!
Most unicorn wines date back to the 1900s and even further. It may have reached peak maturity if you secure a bottle from these times. With this, you can already enjoy all the wine’s complexities developed throughout the years.
Others bottles are from the 2000s and 2010s, which still have a lot of aging potential. You can customize how you want to cellar the bottles and for how long so they can mature the way you want them.
The fact that unicorn wines are hard to find just makes wine collectors want them more. If there is a specific bottle that you intend to find, you have to prepare for the possibility that it’s sold out and may only be available again after several years.
If you can’t wait that long, you can opt for a substitution. It may be from the same Domaine or the same type of wine but a different vintage.
Unicorn wines are seldom sold in online stores, let alone physical stores. But some websites curate rare and special wine bottles and then put them up for auction.
Technically, unicorn wines don’t have a strict price range to qualify as such. But compared to regular wines, they can be quite expensive, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
With such a high demand for a low supply, unicorn wines are considered an investment. One should have a budget for them; how much that budget will depend on the person’s capacity.
Unicorn Wine FAQ
What does unicorn wine exactly taste like?
The taste of unicorn wines can vary according to the ingredients used, the winemaking process, and aging conditions. The typical characteristics are fruity, floral, and spicy.
Is unicorn wine made from tears?
No, it is not made from unicorn tears. This myth has often been repeated because of the wine’s name; some even believe it's true. Unicorn tears are not real, yet plenty of wines claim to be made from them.
How do I know whether a unicorn wine is worth it?
Find out what people think of the unicorn wine you're thinking about purchasing by asking around or conducting an online search. Inquire from other collectors about their favorites, dislikes, etc.
Learning as much as possible about the wine you're buying before pulling the trigger is the greatest approach to ensure you’re making a wise investment.
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