Unicorn Wines: Bottles of Mythic Proportions

Posted July 24, 2015

Stacy Brody


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There are storied wines spoken about by sommeliers. These are the wines of fairy tales, legendary wines. You’ve heard about them. You’ve read about them. Maybe you’ve even met someone who has tasted one of these fabled wines.

But have you ever had an encounter with a Unicorn Wine?

My imagination got the best of me

When I first heard this term, I thought of rainbows. I imagined aromas of marshmallow clouds, and, on the palate, peach pie a la mode.

Then, I snapped out of my reverie of flying horses and a sun made out of Skittles, and I, like anyone with a question in the digital age, Googled Unicorn Wine.

This is seriously good stuff.

Unicorn Wines are hard to find. They are rarer than rare. These are wines you’ll have once in a lifetime...if you’re lucky.  

A couple years ago, wine specialists, collectors, and geeks noticed #unicornwine being used more and more on Twitter and Instagram. How could this be? Were there more Unicorns? Or were we just more connected than ever? Serious questions were being raised about the use of #UnicornWine - overuse of the term could diminish its very magic! The need for a collaboration of minds quickly became evident.

Parr, et al. to the rescue.

The collaborative effort to preserve the magic of Unicorn Wines brought together esteemed experts: 1) Rajat Parr, wine director for the Mina Group of restaurants and wine producer in his own right, 2) Chad Zeigler, named best new sommelier of 2013 by Wine & Spirits Magazine and currently serving as sommelier at RN74 in San Francisco, and 3) Bryan Garcia of NYC-based distributor Grand Cru Selections.  

Using #UnicornWineRules, Parr, Zeigler, Garcia, and others, thoughtfully drafted qualifying criteria for Unicorn Wines to preserve the sanctity of the term.

  1. Less than 200 cases were produced

  2. “You feel genuinely uncomfortable opening it because it may never happen again” (Zeigler)

  3. The “winemaker is no longer with us or retired,” added Parr

While the wine does not have to meet all three criteria, it must be “elusive,” as @RockandRhone says. These are not wines you find every day (or even every year).

Preserve the Unicorn-Ness

So, this is not a term to be used for everyday wines, no matter how amazingly delicious they are. One importer named “unicorn wine” the “most overused wine term” in 2013. “Somehow, when everybody uses it, it takes away the unicorn-ness,” tweeted @Winemonger.

So, please, do not use this hashtag carelessly on Instagram and Twitter. Do not ascribe it to undeserving wines. Do not diminish the unicorn-ness.

Ah, memories.

So what's a good example of a Unicorn Wine? I asked my co-workers for memories of their own encounters.

Not to be beat, Wine Director Ian Dorin threw down 1990 Domaine Romanee Conti Romanee St Vivant, arguably the most sought after wines in the world.

My first experience showed me exactly why people pay a major premium to own these wines. The color gives no indication to what I was about to experience, as it was classic Pinot Noir, but the nose was as explosive and expressive as I have ever had on any wine. Deep, complex, and never-ending, the wild aromas ranged from fruit, to earth, to a construction site, all the way back to a field of flowers. The palate pulled the same wild stunt, with layer after layer of decadent, heavenly suppleness and sappiness, and unreal complexity. Easily, one of the best wines I've ever had.

Have you had an encounter with such an elusive Unicorn Wine? Let me know: @WineLib_StacyB

Do baby unicorns have horns?

While writing this article, I started to wonder if its possible to know when you have a baby unicorn on your hands. Ian's answer was a resounding yes. “It was pure magic,” he says of his first taste of 1996 Leoville Las Cases.

A winery offers a small production wine. A winemaker announces his last vintage. These things happen and from them, Unicorn Wines are born.

Sometimes, on first taste, you just know.

Stacy comes to Wine Library from the production side of the industry. After studying agriculture in college, she found herself working at a local winery and, at harvest season, snacking on as many Pinot Noir grapes as she could take before the winemaker noticed. She enjoys reading, hiking, and scoping out what's in season at the local farmers' markets.
Product Label.

Chat Leoville Las Cases

98 Robert Parker - Robert Par...

Item: 12399

750 mL

Retail: $399.99

$324.98 per btl