Wine prices at auction have positively exploded in recent years, especially at Sotheby’s, which has continued to experience record-breaking growth. The world’s most expensive wines are fetching extremely high prices, with new records set at seemingly every auction. According to a recent market report, Bordeaux used to account for the majority of wine sold at auction — 60% in 2013 — Burgundy eclipsed Bordeaux in 2019 and shows no signs of slowing down.
The Most Expensive Wine in the World
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is by far the most coveted wine in the world and has been for several years. This Burgundy wine producer, informally known as DRC, is the most famous vintner in the world. It specializes in Pinot Noir wines exclusively made from grand cru vineyards and is renowned for its nuanced expressions. In 2020, Sotheby’s sold $19.4 million of Domaine de la Romané-Conti at auction — it represented 20% of all of Sotheby’s wine sales. The most expensive wine ever sold was Domaine de la Romanée-Conti from 1945. In 2018, two bottles sold for $1.05 million.
Following DRC are French wines Pétrus ($4.2m), Jean-Louis Chave ($3.1m), Henri Jayer ($3.0), Mouton Rothschild ($2.8m), Lafite ($2.8m), Domaine Leroy ($2.1m), and finally, Haut Brion ($2.1m). For Champagne, Dom Pérignon, Salon, and Krug topped the sales and are therefore the most expensive sparkling wines in the world.
In Italy, Ornellaia and Sassicaia dominate sales, followed by Masseto and Antinori.
The most important American producers at auction are Harlan, Sine Qua Non, Colgin, Bryant, Screaming Eagle, and Opus One.
Why are these wines so expensive?
The primary reason is that they are produced in limited quantities and are difficult to find. The majority of the bottles are pre-sold and never make it to retail stores. For many people, especially new collectors, the only way to acquire these bottles is on the secondary market. This means purchasing at auction or from private collections. After recent counterfeiting scandals, such as those perpetrated by Rudy Kurniawan, whose exploits were documented in the film Sour Grapes, purchasing from a reputable auction house is the best way to ensure you are purchasing authentic wines.