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Denman Moody (center) at Dinner of the Decade with unrivaled lineup of chefs Daniel Boulud, Jerome Bocuse, Thomas Keller, Richard Rosendale

Featured Article

The Two Greatest Wines in History?

(Except for the Wines at the Wedding in Cana in 30 AD)

Article by Denman Moody and Laura Green

Photography by Provided

Originally published in River Oaks Lifestyle

About Denman Moody

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 executive assistant to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas. 

Denman has traveled the world, rubbing elbows with an exclusive inner circle of winemakers, from Napa, to Mendoza, to Barossa, to Bordeaux–anywhere that interesting, well-crafted wines can be found. 

Writing about wine was a new thing in the U.S. when Denman launched Moody’s Wine Review, which became a go-to source within the industry. He eventually sold the publication to International Wine Review and stayed on as a contributing editor for a time. 

Denman has written about wine for La Revue du Vin de France, The International Wine & Food Society Journal in London, Wine Spectator, and Wine & Spirits Magazine, as well as publications closer to home. In 1991, he was inducted into the Who’s Who in Food and Wine in Texas. He’s a past president of the Houston Chapter of the International Wine & Food Society and has conducted wine talks and tastings at events across the Houston area and throughout the world. 

“Wine is so civilized—there are extra dimensions to the enjoyment of wine that no other beverage can match. And the food/wine pairings that create synergisms are endless,” says Denman in his book, “The Advanced Oenophile.” It’s an honor to have him grace our pages with a bit of storytelling and perspective that only he can impart. 


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.

Two wines: an 1870 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild in magnum from the Glamis Castle Cellar in Scotland, and a 1945 Romanée-Conti in jeroboam, are possibly the greatest wines of their type ever produced.  Unbelievably, my wife and I are among probably no more than five or ten living people who have tasted both wines. Here is the evidence.

The 1870 Glamis Castle 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.”

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, and a magnum generally serves eight or ten people at a dinner party, 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 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 all the First Growths from most of the great vintages.

A bottle of 1870 Lafite sold for $80,275 at Zachy’s March 30, 2019 auction at Le Bernadin 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 for years in large format bottles. 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 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.   

There were about thirty attendees at the dinner my wife and I attended in 1995, including a Master of Wine and a Master Sommelier. None of them questioned the authenticity of the wine. I imagine Frank served his other jeroboam at his sixtieth birthday dinner in 2005. There might be thirty or so still with us who have tasted this wine from a jeroboam. 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.       

  • Michael Mondavi and Denman Moody at the Robert Mondavi Winery in 1978.
  • Denman Moody (center) at Dinner of the Decade with unrivaled lineup of chefs Daniel Boulud, Jerome Bocuse, Thomas Keller, Richard Rosendale
  • Wine aficionado, Denman Moody