The Rhône valley is an all-time favourite wine region, prestigious in its own right without entering into the longstanding (though friendly) rivalry between Bordeaux and Burgundy. If anything, the only contest for the Rhône takes place within its own borders, with the north and south often compared for their different terroirs and styles.
To put together this top 20, we’ve included only one bottle per domain (the highest-priced one).
North vs South
These sub-regions differ in their climate, geology, altitude, grapes, growing methods and vinification, but what they have in common is their crafting of fine, ageing wines. It is unsurprising to find that the top Rhône bottles purchased at auction are in vintages ranging from 1949 to 2007. Among them are a 1990, 2005, and 1999, the latter appearing no less than four times! A region home to some truly fine vintages.
The top 20 is made up almost entirely, therefore, of red cuvées, with one very special exception: Chapoutier’s straw wine, a Hermitage in the 2010 vintage. Straw wine is made from characteristic grapes, and it takes time to flourish and complexify.
This ranking reveals, above all, a keen interest in the sloping terroirs of the northern Rhône, as this part of the region is represented by 13 of the 20 wines. A number of different appellations feature in the table, but Hermitage, Côte-Rôtie, Cornas, and Saint-Joseph make the biggest impact. Indeed, the top three Rhône cuvées of 2021 so far come from the prestigious Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie. Let’s have a closer look at them.
Currently in the lead for the region’s auction results is Jean-Louis Chave’s Cathelin cuvée, this time a 2000 vintage that sold for €5,403. This is an exclusive wine made by order of just 2,000 bottles a year, and it is no longer available to the wider public. Such rarity makes Chave’s Hermitage Cathelin a top contender at auction, and its success shows no sign of slowing. In second place we have a Hermitage La Chapelle from Paul Jaboulet Aîné, which went under the hammer for €3,819. This legendary cuvée is made using very old vines that are cultivated following biodynamic principles. A very strong performance for the bronze comes from Guigal’s 1978 Côte-Rôtie La Mouline. Made from a parcel of no more than one hectare, this particular cuvée came into the world during an exceptional year, and is the only one of the estate’s La-La-La trio to contain as much Viognier (11%). This varietal confers a delicate edge to an otherwise powerful wine.
As we’ve already mentioned, rarity plays a huge part in the success of a bottle at auction. That might be because the bottle is produced in very limited quantities, the cuvée is no longer made, it dates from a bygone era, or indeed the estate itself no longer exists. Some of the Rhône wines that have gone for spectacular prices due to their rarity include the 1992 Côte-Rôtie by Marius Gentaz-Dervieux (6th place at €1,474), the 1999 Saint-Joseph from Raymond Trollat (8th place for €921), and the 1991 Cornas by Auguste Clape, which comes it at number 13 for a hammer price of €547.
Other names of note
As per usual, this wouldn’t be a top Rhône ranking without the appearance of Emmanuel Reynaud, here represented by his 1990 Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Château Rayas (5th place at €1,965) as well as a 2010 cuvée from Domaine de Pignan (17th place for €491). Vinified in whole bunches and matured in aged casks, these wines are lauded for their finesse. Another gem, this time in 9th place (€860), is Thierry Allemand’s 1999 sulphur-free Cornas; this vigneron works just 6 hectares of land using natural methods. Finally, from the discreet but highly coveted Domaine de Pierre et Marie Benetière, the 2007 Côte-Rôtie Dolium went for €418, putting it at 19th place in the top table.
|Position||Colour||Name||Hammer price (scaled to 750ml)|
|1||Red||1 bt Hermitage Ermitage Cuvée Cathelin 2000 de Jean-Louis Chave||€5,403|
|2||Red||1 bt Hermitage La Chapelle 1949 de Paul Jaboulet Aîné||€3,819|
|3||Red||1 bt Côte-Rôtie La Mouline1978 de Guigal||€2,947|
|4||Red||1 bt Côte-Rôtie Côte Brune 1991 du domaine Jamet||€2,210|
|5||Red||1 bt Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1990 de Château Rayas||€1,965|
|6||Red||2 bt Côte-Rôtie 1992 de Marius Gentaz-Dervieux||€1,474|
|7||Red||1 bt Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Spéciale 1990 de Henri Bonneau & Fils||€1,351|
|8||Red||1 bt Saint-Joseph 1999 de Raymond Trollat||€921|
|9||Red||1 bt Cornas Cuvée Sans Soufre 1999 de Thierry Allemand||€860|
|10||Red||1 bt Cornas SC 1983 de Marcel Juge||€798|
|11||Red||1 bt Châteauneuf-du-Pape Hommage à Jacques Perrin 2007 de Beaucastel||€675|
|12||Red||2 bt Côte-Rôtie La Belle Hélène 1999 de Michel et Stéphane Ogier||€559|
|13||Red||2 bt Cornas 1991 d’Auguste Clape||€547|
|14||Red||1 bt Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Da Capo 2000 de Pegaü||€540|
|15||Red||1 bt Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Centenaire 1990 du domaine des Cailloux||€516|
|16||Red||1 bt Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Plume du Peintre 2005 de La Mordorée||€495|
|17||Red||1 bt Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010 du domaine de Pignan||€491|
|18||Dessert white||3 half-bt Hermitage Vin de Paille 2010 de Chapoutier||€467|
|19||Red||1 bt Côte-Rôtie Le Dolium 2007 de Marie et Pierre Benetière||€418|
|20||Red||1 mg Côte-Rôtie La Sereine Noire 1999 de Gangloff||€399|