Att: Oenophiles — These Are the Most Expensive Wines of the Year
... and why they’re so pricey.
While the notion of spending as much as your monthly rent on one bottle of wine might sound preposterous, there’s an entire industry devoted to these kinds of pricey pours. The most expensive wines of 2022 give a snapshot of what regions of the globe are considered most prestigious and which producers and grape varieties have garnered the most buzz. Of course, for most people, this illustrious world of auction houses and five-digit bottles is nowhere close to the reality of a reasonably-priced bottle of wine, but if you’ve ever found yourself entranced by a wine documentary or fascinated by the story behind a premium bottle, there’s no harm in simply looking at these internationally-recognized labels, right?
Tapping wine industry experts to better understand what distinguishes a good-enough bottle of wine with an ultra-expensive one, continue ahead to dive into the different countries that consistently produce these fine wines, plus an explanation behind how a $1000+ price tag is justified (and who’s charging it). Plus, if you’re already a certified wine geek and have been prepping for a cellar-worthy investment, peruse the pricey picks below that deliver on quality and a slice of winemaking history.
The Priciest Wine Regions
You can find expensive wine in all corners of the globe from Mosel, Germany to Australia’s Barossa Valley, there’s no debating that. But there are a select few geographical heavy hitters when it comes to consistently pricey pours. “When we talk about the most expensive labels in the world, the regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, and Napa Valley come to mind,” Bowery Group Wine Director Natascha Patterer tells TZR. “That's not to say you can't find excellent wines that won't break the bank from these regions, but some of the most notable (and hard to find) producers stem from these regions.”
France — specifically — is renowned for its bottle releases priced in the tens of thousands. “Most definitely Bordeaux with their famous (old) first growth wines and Burgundy especially with Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Rousseau,” Restaurant Associates Regional Director of Operations and all-around beverage guru Thierry Sighel explains. As for Champagne, just last fall, Christie’s of London auctioned off one of the rarest bottles of champagne in history — the 1874 Perrier-Jouët — at $56,981; a record-breaking auction that’s being chronicled in SOMM TV’s newest show, Auction Lot 288 (premiering July 8). Across the pond in California, the Napa Valley region, as a whole, is in high demand. “At only one sixth the size of Bordeaux by acres planted, there is less than 0.5 percent of the world’s wine being produced here. Therefore, the price of Napa Valley wine is somewhat reflective of the quality and rarity of the region,” Cliff Lede Vineyards Director of Communications Jason Lede says.
What Makes A Wine Expensive?
If the idea of spending more than $30 on a bottle of wine makes you flinch, you might be wondering what could possibly command a price in the hundreds and even thousands. “The main factors (in no particular order) are producer, vintage, quality, ability to age, ability to resale, and grape varietals that are in demand,” Sighel says of wines that cost above the norm. In the vineyard and winery, “everything from the size of the harvest to winemaking decisions such as aging or oak usage can affect the price as well,” Patterer says.
Beyond these pillar characteristics, there’s also marketing and upcharge that drive up cost. “Most of the high prices are caused by the secondary market,” Parcelle Co-founder Grant Reynolds says. “There are very few producers who are selling their wines directly near the high prices. It’s the second, third, etc. trade that has made them creep up. That’s driven by status and spareness.” As for marketing, Patterer argues it plays a bigger part than you might suspect. “I'm of the somewhat controversial opinion that a lot of wine pricing is based around marketing and less about farming practices, vinification, and the quality of the juice in the bottle,” she says.
More Importantly — Is It Worth It?
The question of whether or not an expensive wine is ‘worth it’ is ultimately up to your affinity for wine, plus what you plan to do with it. Is it purely a collector’s item? Are you planning to drink it? Perhaps you’ll resell it someday? There are many avenues to take when it comes to investing in a premium bottle. “Like any collectible — whether it be a watch, pair of sneakers, or a bag — the value is first in the quality and scarcity of the product,” Reynolds says. “With wine, I think the quality of wines worthy of fetching a high price point really reveals itself with age. It doesn’t add up to open up a spendy bottle that’s super young. It makes a lot of sense for an older bottle to fetch a high price because it’s the only collectible that diminishes in quantity as it’s consumed. Therefore as people drink, the collective market goes up in price due to supply declining.”
Unlike a piece of rare jewelry or art, once you drink a bottle of wine, its existence lives only in your memory — so creating a lasting narrative around the bottle and the drinking experience is key. “What consumers and wine marketers need to understand is that the juice in the bottle has a story: maybe it's a winery with hundreds of years of winemaking history, or maybe the wine comes from an immigrant farming family following their passion and making every year's harvest better than the last, against all odds,” Patterer says. “Whenever you spend any amount of money on a bottle of wine, you're supporting that story.” Same goes for opening the bottle and pouring it out for yourself and a few loved ones. “Expensive wine is sharing an experience. It is creating a souvenir and a moment of conviviality with friends. So depending on your goals, choose the wine and your tasting panel wisely,” Sighel adds.
A distinction worth making is between expensive and exclusive. “An expensive wine is not always exclusive, and exclusive wines are not always expensive. Some of the hardest wines to attain, in fact, are not stratospherically expensive,” Sommelier and Vinya Co-owner Allegra Angelo says. “ For instance, I’ve been trying to get a high-end Sancerre bottling from Clement and Florian Berthier for about three months and we typically sell it for $48. Not expensive, but impossible to get because it has a cult following — cult wines live within all price spectrums.”
Releases For 2022, From Record Breaking to Accessibly Pricey
As mentioned before, France is a hub for expensive wine, and 2022’s releases and top-rankers are no exception. “Same usual suspects include Petrus, Lafite, Margaux, Mouiton, Cheval Blanc, DRC, Rousseau, Domaine Leroy, Roumier, Jayer, and Domaine Leflaive,” Sighel notes. Beyond France, other regions of the world boast producers with cult followings, such as Penfolds whose 1951 Grange (arguably one of the most collected wines in the world) sold the first vintage at auction recently for a record-breaking price of $142,131(AUD). And in Napa Valley, names like Realm and Screaming Eagle are renowned for their eye-widening prices (the latter selling a bottle of their 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon for a whopping $500,000). Ahead, peek at the world’s top five most expensive wines of the year as reported on Wine Searcher, plus shop TZR’s favorite spendy bottles of 2022 to add to your wine cellar.
We at TZR only include products that have been independently selected by our editors. We may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
- Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, France (Average Price: $41,449)
- Leroy Domaine d'Auvenay Criots-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru, Cote de Beaune, France (Average Price: $29,657)
- Leroy Domaine d'Auvenay Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru, Cote de Beaune, France (Average Price: $28,788)
- Leroy Domaine d'Auvenay Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru, Cote de Beaune, France (Average Price: $28,089)
- Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Romanee-Conti Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, France (Average Price: $25,389)