With so much that has been lost in the last 18 months due to the pandemic, there are still people around who are willing and able to spend some cash as they live a good life. Unfortunately, many normal go-to luxuries such as world-class trips or concerts have been canceled or modified by Covid-19. The crisis has stifled travel and changed people’s habits, and without many ordinary luxuries in play, people have turned to a good bottle of wine that they can drink from the comfort of their own homes. Although everyone’s definition of “good” is different, suffice it to say that the world’s most expensive wine bottle could probably pay for a year of college tuition!
So how does wine get to be that expensive? There are several elements that go into determining the cost of a bottle of wine. Of course, the production costs need to be considered first. This includes the cost of growing the grapes in the vineyards, producing the bottle of wine, and distributing and marketing the wine to the public. All wines have production costs of course, but what creates the difference between a $500 bottle and a $5,000 bottle of wine?
One element of the expense is how rare a wine is. If a vineyard only produced 300 bottles, then each bottle will be sought after much more than if the vineyard produced thousands. This will drive the price up. Another element that drives up price concerns the specific types of grapes and vintages, which can certainly make a bottle more expensive. Age is another influencer, and as fine bottles age, they grow more expensive. Finally, the prestige and the salesmanship of the brand can drive the price up, as well-known vineyards and bottlers can demand a higher price.
For those who do not drink wine, they might be astounded to learn that there are many bottles that are sold for five-figure prices. How is the price determined? Since the prices of fine wines can fluctuate throughout the global wine market, Wine Searcher looks at the prices at the beginning of every month in order to determine how to price it. They also tend to include wines that are available at a decent number of realtors and wines that have several vintages, not just extremely rare or elitist bottles.
So what kind of wines top the list? At the top of the food chain when it comes to expensive wines, of course, sit the Burgundy favorites. This continues to be the case even as prices continue to rise. Three special wines that top $20,000 include Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Romanee Conti Grand Cru, and Leroy Domaine d’Auvenay Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru.
Although this might be good news for the vineyards and the bottlers of Burgundy, Burgundy buyer Martin Tickle is worried about Burgundy pricing itself out. “I am concerned about the pricing at regional, village, and premier cru level. These wines are starting to move out of the reach of everyday consumers, and it is here that I agree with Charles Lachaux – people will go elsewhere. There are few genuine alternatives to the best premier and grand crus of Burgundy, but there are a plethora of alternatives at regional and village level from around the world.”
Likewise, collectors in Asia, Africa, and South America are currently focusing their demand on the most recognized crus and labels. “But the region is still largely dependent on traditional sectors like European retail when it comes to wines that lack the cachet of Montrachet and Musigny. Prices have been rising across the board so that even village wines are starting to look outrageously expensive. If things continue as they are, then Burgundy may find the poulets coming home to roost.” As with anything, especially in light of the pandemic, prices are continuing to rise and the average person will be priced out.
The leap in price from the previous two years has been gigantic. This year, 8 wines have a price that spans five digits, and there has been a definitive price increase across the board, with some wines even doubling in price. According to a recent Wine Searcher report, “DRC’s average price rose by a little more than 13 percent in the past year, Leflaive by 17.4 percent, Henri Jayer by 15 percent and the Roumier Musigny by 19 percent, the Leroy wines have forged ahead effortlessly.”When the cost of a bottle of wine can equal the wages of the average median income, that shows just how rare and expensive a wine can be. But without a plethora of traditional outlets for people who have a lot of money to blow, the Burgundies will continue to be popular this year. If you are lucky enough to enjoy this rare type of bottle, relax, sit down, and make the most of your time! And if the world’s most expensive wines are a bit out of reach, try our aromatic Barterhouse white Burgundy.