One of the most expensive wines ever sold at an auction in 2010 was the 1947 French Cheval Blanc. The price? A whopping $304,375! What makes a 67-year old bottle of vino so expensive? Then again, how about the famous Screaming Eagle Cabernet sold at a princely sum of $500,000? And, this six liter bottle of wine wasn’t even vintage, being only bottled in 1992.
Wine collectors around the world are always on the hunt for the best wines to add to their collection and some are willing to pay a lot of money for one bottle of rare vino. But, it brings us back to the question of what makes a wine expensive. And, does it mean the vino is an exceptionally good wine when you pay a high price for it?
What Makes a Wine Expensive?
What makes some wine prices soar so high you could end up paying more than a house would cost? You can’t help but wonder if the limited amount of ingredients that goes into producing a bottle of wine can really be the reason some vinos are so expensive. Production costs are always a factor influencing the price of any product, so this also contributes to the range of prices charged for wines.
But, what other factors play a role in making a wine so expensive it’s only accessible to a very few wine collectors who can afford the price?
Novelty, Prestige, and Trendiness
One of the main reasons why some wines sell at such extravagant prices is the novelty and the collectability value placed on certain vinos by collectors around the world. And, while age and rarity of a wine play a huge role in determining its price, prestige also influences whether a bottle of vino is expensive or not.
While trendiness may be commonly associated with the clothing industry, it’s also a factor in the wine sector. And, wine auctions play on this by ensuring wines from exclusive and famous estates become the trend among serious collectors.
Wine Aged in Oak Barrels
Some of the most expensive wines in the world have been aged in oak barrels, a factor that definitely pushes the price up. Wine aged in oak barrels has more distinctive flavors. Oak barrels also allows the wine to be exposed to more oxygen which influences the level of tannins in the drink, producing a wine with a far smoother taste.
Acquiring oak barrels is not cheap, resulting in the wines being more expensive. A top-quality oak barrel can cost in the region of $950. One ancient oak tree makes two barrels and winemakers normally only use a barrel two to three times before discarding it.
Limited Quantities Available
Limited quantities of a sought after wine also push up the price. The Californian wine estate that produces the Screaming Eagle collection only produces a limited number of bottles every year. Having acquired a cult status, this wine is on the must-have waiting list of many collectors.
When a wine is in high demand, it also becomes more expensive. Some wine estates rely on this factor by producing some of their best wines in smaller quantities. Winemakers of the Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon have thousands queuing up for years to add a bottle priced over $3,000 to their cellar. Fans of the Screaming Eagle Winery and Vineyard’s Sauvignon Blanc also queue up to pay up to $5,800 for a bottle of this white wine.
How Can You Tell a Good Bottle of Wine?
A study has shown that most wine drinkers will enjoy a good wine irrespective of its price. However, connoisseurs with a background in wine training are more likely to appreciate the nuances of a good wine that’s expensive.
When paying for an expensive wine, how can you tell if it’s good or not before opening the bottle? Read on for indications of a good wine when deciding whether to pay a high price for a bottle or not.
Read the Label
A label that includes information about the wine region, valley, and grape varietals used is a good indication of a good wine. Details such as when the grapes were harvested, alcohol content, and characteristics such as sweetness, acidity, tannin, and body should be listed on good wines.
If the label also includes the description of the notes and aromas of the wine, you can expect a good vino. Labels will also indicate if the wine has been made with the estate’s best grapes which have been used to produce top-quality wines. These are often more expensive and limited in quantities.
While this doesn’t always guarantee a good bottle of wine, the smaller the wine region the higher the chance you’re getting a decent vino. When a wine comes from a single vineyard, the grapes are of premium quality, and of a single variety. Depending on the age of the winery, the grape vines on single vineyards could also be older, producing fewer grapes for limited production of wine.
Grapes from older vines often have a deep and rich flavor favored by wine connoisseurs who are willing to pay an expensive price for a good bottle of wine. And, grapes are often hand-picked during harvesting on single vineyards, another factor that pushes up the price of wine.
Reputation of Wine Estates
If you’re serious about only buying the most expensive wines, do some research. Wines produced in regions with historical wine estates are often some of the best in the world. This reputation not only assures you that you’re getting a good bottle of wine but it also means you’ll pay more for it.
The heritage of a wine region goes a long way to creating a reputation that winemakers know what they’re doing and that years of experience has gone into the production of wines. Estates in these regions take pride in growing and harvesting premium grapes while following superior production processes to make a good bottle of wine.
5 Most Expensive Wines in the World Today
In 2018, a bottle of 1945 Romanée-Conti sold for $558, 000, topping the sale price of both the 1947 French Cheval Blanc and Screaming Eagle Cabernet. In 2019, a collection of 17,000 bottles including premium wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux, was purchased by an anonymous collector for $29,8 million. The math will tell you that each bottle costed thousands of dollars!
You may not be too keen to spend over half a million on a bottle of good wine. But, what can you expect to pay for the most expensive wine in the world today?
1. Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru – Cote de Nuits, France
A French wine region found in the northern parts of Cote d’Or, France, most of the vineyards in Cote de Nuits are small. The Musigny Grand Cru is produced in the Domaine Leroy Winery and the best vintage is selling at an average price of $30, 800 per bottle. The most expensive wine sold was the 2015 Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru at $101,260.
2. Leroy Domaine d’Auvenay Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru – Cote de Beaune, France
Rated as the second highest Burgundy wine, the 2011 Leroy Domaine d’Auvenay Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru is also the second highest priced wine made with Chardonnay in Cote de Beaune. The wine is produced on the small wine estate of Domaine d’Auvenay in Saint-Romain. The price continues to rise and is currently selling between $26,800 and $38,300 per bottle.
3. Henri Jayer Cros Parantous Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru – France
Another French wine, the Henri Jayer Cros Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru average price per bottle is $17,650. A top price of $29, 700 has been paid for a 750ml bottle of this vintage red wine produced by winemaker, Henri Jayer. Made with Pinot Noir grapes, the 1993 vintage was rated third among the wines produced in this region.
4. Domaine Georges & Christophe Roumier Musigny Grand Cru – France
Some of the best red wines come from Burgundy, France and the 2015 Domaine Georges & Christophe Roumier Musigny Grand Cru will set you back a cool $20, 800 per 750ml bottle. It’s recommended to store this wine in your cellar for up to 10 years before opening to really enjoy the fruity notes and gentle tannins.
5. Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Montrachet Grand Cru – France
If you’re looking for an expensive white wine, you’ll delight in the 1994 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Montrachet Grand Cru at around $10,900 per bottle. This DRC wine is rated high among collectors globally. The most famous vineyard in this domaine, Romanee-Conti covers only 1.81 hectares of vines.
Some of the most expensive wines in the world continue to rank high on the waiting lists of famous wine estates globally. Wine collectors will wait years to be able to add one of these wines to their cellar. But, not all expensive wines require queuing for a good bottle of wine.
Are you willing to fork out anything between $10,000 to $70,000 for a bottle of wine? If so, you should be able to stock your cellar with some of the most expensive wines in the world.