Our tour de France of the year’s most expensive bottles sold at auction takes us to the Rhône valley, where landmark years and collectable bottles are attracting most interest.
In this first semester of 2019, the Rhône valley once again confirmed its status as a land of opportunity that has wine lovers’ hearts beating faster. This sharp increase in prices witnessed in 2018 has continued to gain in momentum this year, with many of the wine below selling for sums significantly above their price estimates.
A quick reminder that, to establish these rankings, we chose each domain’s most expensive cuvée and converted its price to a 75cl bottle format. This makes comparisons simple. All of the wines in our top 20 are red.
The top 5 Rhône wines
|#||Highest-priced bottle||Price (inc.VAT) per bottle|
|1||1 bottle of Hermitage Ermitage Cuvée Cathelin Jean-Louis Chave 1990||8,026 €|
|2||1 bottle of Côte-Rôtie Côte Brune Marius Gentaz-Dervieux 1985||2,675 €|
|3||1 bottle of Côte-Rôtie La Landonne E. Guigal 1978||2,554 €|
|4||1 bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape Henri Bonneau Cuvée spéciale Henri Bonneau & Fils 1990||1,374 €|
|5||1 magnum of Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rayas 1998||1,155 €|
Jean-Louis Chave at the top of the podium
The most expensive bottle of this semester is a rare and collectable Hermitage: Jean-Louis Chave’s 1990 cuvée Cathelin, won by an Italian enthusiast for €8,026. This cuvée is only produced in exceptional vintages and is no longer sold (only available to taste at the domain). The least expensive bottle in our rankings in a Côte-Rôtie Côte Blonde 1990 from the appellation’s rising star, René Rostaing, whose wines are increasingly admired for their quality, combining structure and finesse. This cuvée sold for €377, up 62% on its estimate.
Rhône wines have a varied audience: while the majority of buyers in these rankings are European, there is increasing interest from Hong Kong and Anglo-Saxon wine lovers, especially Americans.
Defunct domains and specialist signatures
In second position is the extremely rare Côte-Rôtie Côte Brune 1985 from Marius Gentaz-Dervieux, a domain that no longer exists. Another collectable domain is Raymond Trollat, whose Saint-Joseph are actively sought after all over the world, particularly by wine lovers on the other side of the pond. This is certainly no exception: an American professional bought a bottle for €851.
Specialist signatures are also on the up with, for instance, Gonon’s Saint-Joseph. The Cornas appellation is still very much on-trend, with bottles from Auguste Clape, Marcel Juge and Thierry Allemand (a natural producer whose wines are increasingly fought over at auction).
While our ranking is made up by a majority of northern Rhône wines, the central position of the south’s star appellation, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, cannot be denied. This appellation represents a quarter of the most expensive bottles sold during the first half of the year. Prestige cuvées stand out, of course. The highest-price Châteauneuf of this first semester is the Cuvée Spéciale 1990 from domain Henri Bonneau & Fils, sold at €1,374. The cuvées from this domain are produced in tiny quantities and are extremely recherché, especially given the owner’s passing away in 2016. Hommage à Jacques Perrin, the cuvée prestige from Château de Beaucastel is only produced in the best years, and is also increasingly coveted by wine lovers, this time selling for €912.
It would be impossible not to mention the icon of the appellation, Château Rayas, in 5th position of our list with a magnum of the 1998 vintage. It’s interesting to note the growing interest for Rayas’ satellite domains: Château de Fonsalette’s Côtes du Rhône Cuvée Syrah in the mythic 1978 vintage went under the hammer for €608 (+90%), sold to British trade.
The secret behind these auction results is also linked with the vintages on offer: some of the best the region has ever seen. In third position, we have a bottle of Côte-Rôtie La Landonne from the iconic Guigal house in the 1978 vintage, sold for €2,554. In this same vintage, Paul Jaboulet Ainé’s Hermitage La Chappelle was won by a Hong Kong wine lover for €1,125. No fewer than the wines in these rankings date from pre-2000, reflecting the insatiable interest for mature vintages and the aging ability of this region’s wines.
|#||Highest-priced bottle||Price (inc.VAT) per bottle||Buying country||Buyer profile|
|1||1 bottle of Hermitage Ermitage Cuvée Cathelin Jean-Louis Chave 1990||8,026 €||Italy||Private|
|2||1 bottle of Côte-Rôtie Côte Brune Marius Gentaz-Dervieux 1985||2,675 €||United Kingdom||Trade|
|3||1 bottle of Côte-Rôtie La Landonne E. Guigal 1978||2,554 €||Austra||Private|
|4||1 bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape Henri Bonneau Cuvée spéciale Henri Bonneau & Fils 1990||1,374 €||Holland||Private|
|5||1 magnum of Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rayas 1998||1,155 €||France||Private|
|6||1 magnum of Hermitage La Chapelle Jaboulet 1978||1,125 €||Hong Kong||Private|
|7||1 bottle of Côte-Rôtie Côte Brune Jamet 1989||930 €||Austria||Private|
|8||2 bottles of Cornas Marcel Juge cuvée C 1988||912 €||United Kingdom||Trade|
|9||1 bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape Beaucastel Hommage à Jacques Perrin 1989||912 €||France||Private|
|10||2 bottles of Saint-Joseph Raymond Trollat 1999||851 €||USA||Trade|
|11||3 bottles of Cornas Thierry Allemand cuvée sans soufre 1999||628 €||USA||Private|
|12||1 bottle of Côtes du Rhône Château Fonsalette – Cuvée Syrah Château de Fonsalette 1978||608 €||United Kingdom||Trade|
|13||1 magnum of Saint-Joseph Vignes Centenaires Georges Lelektsoglou 1991||523 €||France||Private|
|14||1 bottle of Saint-Joseph Gonon Vieilles Vignes 2007||517 €||Hong Kong||Private|
|15||1 bottle of Hermitage Ermitage Le Pavillon Chapoutier 1990||511 €||USA||Private|
|16||1 bottle of Cornas A. Clape 1979||486 €||Hong Kong||Private|
|17||1 bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine de La Mordorée La Plume du Peintre Famille Delorme 2003||450 €||France||Private|
|18||2 bottles of Côte-Rôtie Côte Brune Fontgent Domaine A.Dervieux Thaize 1985||426 €||France||Private|
|19||1 magnum of Châteauneuf-du-Pape Clos Saint-Jean Sanctus Sanctorum Pascal et Vincent Maurel 2009||408 €||France||Private|
|20||1 bottle of Côte-Rôtie Côte Blonde René Rostaing 1990||377 €||Italy||Private|