The Rhône Valley has quite a comfortable position in our auction rankings, with enough prestige to keep it in the top three without entering into the infamous Burgundy-Bordeaux rivalry. So what do the results for the region look like up close, and which domains perform best?
For several years now, the Rhône has occupied third place in both value and volume auctioned via iDealwine. A little over 26,000 bottles went under the hammer in 2020 for a total nearing 3 million euros (+20% compared to 2019). Rhône Valley wines represent 13% of sales in value and 14% in volume, for an average top bid of €118 per bottle. This is an impressive figure, although it is slightly lower than the overall average of €132 a bottle, the result of price inflation for Burgundy grands crus.
This exciting region has its fair share of legendary names, including Château Rayas in Châteauneuf-du-Pape (some of the planet’s most renowned wines), Jean-Louis Chave in Hermitage, and Maison Guigal. Wine lovers on the hunt for new discoveries are keen for the region’s rising stars, not only in the classic appellations but also those that haven’t yet had much time in the spotlight. The Rhône certainly hasn’t escaped the rise of natural producers, with increasing demand for sulphite-free wines showing on the auction market.
Top 3 Rhône domains
In 2020, it was Emmanuel Reynaud – Château Rayas, Pignan, Fonsalette, and des Tours – whose wine came out on top in our regional ranking, with 3,451 bottles auctioned for a total of over €721,000 (+45% on the 2019 figures). This Châteauneuf-du-Pape icon also featured in second place for the Rhône’s highest priced bottles, after a 1967 Château Rayas vintage sold for €2,947.
The next best-selling Rhône domain is Hermitage’s Jean-Louis Chave; 2,006 bottles from this estate were auctioned in 2020 for a little over €437,000 in total, not an easy feat when you realise how rare it is to find the much-coveted cuvées of this legendary producer. Chave’s Cathelin cuvée took gold for the region’s highest-priced wine, a great rarity made only in the finest vintages, receiving a top bid of €6,140 for the 1990 vintage.
Finally, 2020 saw continued success for Maison Guigal, with 1,839 bottles auctioned for around €313,000. Reputed for its fine Côte-Rôtie, particularly the trio of La Mouline, La Turque and La Landonne (also referred to as LA-LA-LA), it was a 1978 La Mouline that found itself on the regional podium last year, going under the hammer for €2,702.
North vs South
When we look at the overall ranking of best-performing domains from the Rhône, there’s pretty much an equal share between northern and southern producers. However, whilst the northern Rhône is represented by numerous prestigious appellations, mainly Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage, Cornas, and Saint-Joseph, there is just one flying the flag for the south; Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Going solo like this in the auction rankings takes nothing away from the appellation’s renown, with many Châteauneuf-du-Pape domains well-established on both a national and even global scale.
Aside from the three top figures cited above, there are certainly other Rhône names worth more than a passing mention. Domaine Jamet crafts cuvées that blend together multiple expressions of the Côte-Rôtie appellation, and Henri Bonneau is a stalwart of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Also coveted for their rarity are cuvées from domains that no longer exist, such as Gentaz-Dervieux, another Côte-Rôtie name that won’t be disappearing from the minds or cellars of wine lovers any time soon. Bottles from these domains all fall into the category of collectors’ wines, with several bottles going for over €2,000 at auction.
Natural wines on the up and southern appellations emerge
Well-established as a region of great quality, what the Rhône has to offer goes beyond the iconic signatures of the north and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Some of the domains piquing the curiosity of wine lovers are in line with emerging trends, especially organic, biodynamic, and natural producers. And these domains aren’t necessarily to be found within the region’s most elite appellations.
Domaine de l’Anglore, for example, has managed to draw more attention to the Tavel appellation in recent years. Discrete and only recognised by a limited circle of enthusiasts until recently, Anglore rocketed to 5th place in our 2020 ranking of best-selling Rhône properties. This biodynamic estate is the work of Eric Pfifferling, a former beekeeper turned vintner whose 2018 vine de France Pierre Chaude cuvée went under the hammer for €166. The shift towards less synthetic production techniques is not new for the region, but it has seen a marked increase, with more historic names like Domaine Thierry Allemand in Cornas holding their own in a market that continues to evolve.
Top 10 Rhône domains at auction (2020)
– Domaine E. Reynaud – Château Rayas… – (Châteauneuf-du-Pape)
– Jean-Louis Chave (Hermitage)
– Guigal (Côte-Rôtie and others)
– Jamet (Côte-Rôtie)
– L’Anglore (Tavel)
– Beaucastel (Châteauneuf-du-Pape)
– Chapoutier (Châteauneuf-du-Pape and others)
– Henri Bonneau et Fils (Châteauneuf-du-Pape)
– Clos des Papes (Châteauneuf-du-Pape)
– Gonon (Saint-Joseph)
Names to follow in 2021
– Domaine La Grande Colline (Vin de France)
– Gourt de Mautens (Rasteau)
– Domaine du Tunnel (Cornas)
– Domaine du Coulet (Cornas)
– Clos des Grillons (Vin de France)
– Dard et Ribo (Crozes-Hermitage)
– La Janasse (Châteauneuf-du-Pape)
– Gangloff (Côte-Rôtie)
– Domaine Bénetière (Côte-Rôtie)