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Most Expensive Wines

I’ve mentioned in a few posts how some wines get crazy expensive.  The wine just named Wine of the Year by Wine Spectator jumped from $60 into the hundreds overnight.  Petrus in Bordeaux (Pomerol) goes for over $2000.  The great first growths, Latour, Margaux, Lafite, Mouton and Haut Brion bring over $1000 in big vintages.  California cult cabs like Screaming Eagle and Harlan can bring $1000 or more.  This is, however, merely pocket change.

I have read several times about how many people who love Bordeaux eventually ‘graduate‘ to Burgundy.  What this should really say is how many rich people who love Bordeaux graduate to Burgundy.  Burgundy Grand Cru is, from my reading experience (certainly not buying experience!), the most expensive wine in the world across the board.  Grand Cru, the top tier and a fraction of the total production, are always in the $100++ range.  I can’t afford them.  I do have some Premier Cru (I think about 15% of total production becomes Premier Cru), and these have been very good.  I have had excellent Burgundies in restaurants.  My limited experience with Burgundy has left me firmly rooted in Bordeaux, I just think I get more for my money there, with much more available in the lower price ranges.  While I have opened many excellent bottles of Bordeaux we paid less than $20 for, I have not had the same luck with its cousin.  I have opened some poor bottles of less than $20 burgundy.

Apparently the high end is different in Burgundy, judging by price.  There’s a list of the 50 highest priced wines on wine searcher, and it is an eye opener.  The top wine, a Richebourg,goes for $14,395 per bottle across all available vintages.  That is about $3500 per glass!  I don’t know about you, but that is slightly out of my everyday wine budget.  Checking in at a paltry $11,823 average is DRC, or Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, probably the more well known king of Burgundy.  And remember these are average prices across vintages, the highest priced available vintages are much, much more expensive.

On this list Burgundy takes the top four spots, 8 out of the top 10 and 35 out of the top 50.  That’s a pretty clear message as to where your dollar goes the least distance in the wine world.  My grand cru days are clearly not in sight.  We will enjoy an occasional Premier Cru, but when drinking France we will stay firmly in Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley.  When we start talking about thousands of dollars for a bottle of wine, or even hundreds, we’re talking about drinking a label and a status symbol.  I can absolutely say I’ve had some great bottles of wine, rated as high as 97 by Spectator (and I’m not sure what that’s exactly worth, but we’ll write about that soon) and I can’t imagine a wine being worth 50 or more times what we paid for that experience.  Maybe we’re wrong, it does happen all the time.

By the way, for comparison, there are 4 Bordeaux on this list, starting with Chateau Petrus at #10, and followed by Le Pin (14), Lafleur (39) and Ausone (43).  Screaming Eagle checks in at #13.  Throw in a couple of champagnes and ports and you’ve got the whole  list.  The rich man’s bank account belongs to the Burgundians.

The area of Burgundy and the structure of its wine industry are complex and hard to understand quickly.  Lots and lots of appellations, various levels of wine, confusing labels and plots of vineyards divided over time into small parcels due to the inheritance laws make for in depth study.  I am no expert.  For more information on the area I suggest going to the Wine Doctor by Chris Kissack.

A votre sante!  If you’re opening a bottle of DRC soon, please invite me.

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