Most Expensive French Wines

Demand + limited supply = grande prices


If you ever wondered if price is some sort of corollary of quality in wine, I’m here to answer your question. The answer is yes, and no, sometimes, but not always, and maybe more rarely than you think!

OK, that was of no help, I know that. But the truth of the matter is there are many factors that affect the price of a wine. Chief among those factors is scarcity: nothing like unbridled demand coupled with a fixed, and hopefully limited, supply to drive a wine’s price into the stratosphere!

Other factors include the prices of comparable wines, competing wines from around the world, as well as a wine’s track record for quality and ageing. Counter-intuitively, one of the factors that contributes to a wine’s high price is the likelihood of that price increasing further in the future. Thus the wine’s ability to improve over time plays a big role in how expensive a wine gets.

Petrus

Petrus is about as famous a Bordeaux as you can find. It’s a relative newcomer to the ultra-premium world of hyper-expensive Bordeaux. Just 50 years ago, no one really cared much about Petrus, but then word spread. The news got out about this exceptional Merlot from Bordeaux’s Pomerol region and prices soared. How high? The 2006 vintage is selling for around $1,500 a bottle and up.

There is no substitute for Petrus, but La Vielle Cure from Fronsac, also in Bordeaux, is a very nice wine, affordable at under $30 a bottle and a fine example of a Merlot-rich (about 75%) Bordeaux blend.

Find out more.

Le Pin

I recently spoke of Le Pin, even more expensive than Petrus! This is primarily due to the low yields from this tiny vineyard. While Petrus might produce 4,000 cases a year, Le Pin’s production is closer to 500. This bottle of pure Merlot, also from Pomerol, vies Petrus for top pricing honors each year, squeaking out a win in 2003, besting Petrus’s $1,500 or so a bottle by several hundred dollars.

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DRC

Domaine de la Romanée Conti is the most expensive wine producer in what tends to be the most expensive wine region in France -- heck, in all the world. Burgundy is rare, fickle and, when it’s good, exceptional. It’s no surprise that the wines of Burgundy would be included in this list. The inheritance laws have broken up vineyards into ever smaller plots; restricting supply as each producer vilifies and bottles their own small slice of the coveted crus.

In the case of DRC, supply is not exactly the problem. Now that is not to say that production is huge (it’s obviously not), but there is a fair amount of wine to go round. The most expensive red wine from the DRC line-up is the wine from the Romanée-Conti vineyard, where annual production hovers around 500 cases. A bottle of the 2006 will set you back some about $5,000, if you’re lucky! Looking to experience DRC on a budget? Good luck. The least expensive offering in 2006 is the Echezeau bottling, which is clocking in at close to $400 a bottle. A bargain!

Find out more.

White Burgundy

White Burgundy are the most highly esteemed, most expensive white wines on the planet, so of course they have to be included here. Funny thing though, you can probably guess whose is the most expensive. That’s right, DRC’s Montrachet tops the pack, coming at a cool $2,500 a bottle. But if you want a really exclusive bottle, try and find DRC’s Batard-Montrachet. You’ll have to be wily as a fox. DRC only produces a single barrel, about 80 cases, and keeps the wine for its own use. But if you can get a bottle it could be worth beaucoup bucks! There are no affordable substitutes, facsimiles, or approximations of DRC wines. 

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Guigal Côte Rôtie La Landonne

The Northern Rhône is home to a few super-expensive wines. Old vines difficult to work and self-imposed production limits, like the 1,000-case cap Guigal places on the three La-La wines (as they’re known), help to drive price up. This 100% Syrah from a single vineyard, called La Landonne (the other two La-Las are La Turque and La Mouline), not only has a track record spanning five decades, but the wines continue to pull collectors’ heart- and purse-strings. A relatively affordable $300 a bottle for the 2006 means La Landonne will continue to be a sought-after, affordable, ultra-premium wine. For other folks. 

Find out more.

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Comments

  • Snooth User: Martin E
    249368 16

    The problem with expensive French wines (besides the price tag) is that you either have to buy an old bottle (and often pay even more $$$) or wait 10-20 years till it matures. Otherwise, you would feel that you are wasting a precious product that haven't reached its potential. I think, it's worth it, but unless you are rich you must be real passionate about this stuff.

    Nov 29, 2010 at 10:37 PM


  • Snooth User: Stephen Harvey
    Hand of Snooth
    220753 1,449

    So why no Medocs?

    Nov 30, 2010 at 2:37 AM


  • I just don't understand this article. It's not really about price - because the top Bordeauxs (Lafite etc) are clearly more expensive than, say, Henri Bonneaux. But it's not about quality; there are no tasting notes or qualitative judgments in the article. So, what exactly is it trying to say?

    Nov 30, 2010 at 5:12 AM


  • There is something almost depressing about this article as it illustrates the extent to which the door to "fine" wines has been shut on the majority by the speculating and trophy hunting few. How else to explain the meteoric (and ultimately unsustainable) inflation in prices in recent decades. In retrospect the Dutch look pretty silly sinking their millions into tulips; future generations may think the same about the current obsession with Le Pin.

    I recall with bitter nostalgia my early years in New Jersey where, as a post-doctoral student, my new-found "wealth" enabled me indulge in some of the more exotic offerings. Trips to the local wine shop would yield bottles of DRC Echezeau and Grand Echezeau ($50 - $80), Petrus (around $40) and so on; they would just be sitting on the shelves like any other wine. Now, supposedly further along the arc of wealth, I am further from a Romanee-Conti than ever.

    Dec 02, 2010 at 3:46 PM


  • Snooth User: cadarais
    771592 9

    definition of a good wine?.......one u enjoy!!..and Ive enjoyed a 10 euro bottle of merlot just as much as a 50$ one.....so other than indulging in an enjoyable hobby , collecting and cellaring, I agree with Alywin-forbes that we can become addicted to the investment aspect of wines and like the Dutch be burned by tulip mania!....about 1992 I discovered a 1972 bottle of Spanish Rioja in my Dads cupboard..I opened it on christmas day 1993 and it tasted so foul.....pure vinegar nasty ..we were sooooo dissapointed!

    Feb 23, 2011 at 4:00 AM


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