We kick off our rundown of the world’s priciest wines with a Right Bank favorite.
When it comes to the big names of Bordeaux, most are familiar with the behemoths of the Left Bank.
The austere Cabernet Sauvignon giants of Margaux, Mouton and Latour all command equally austere prices and seem to hold the majority of public interest. But across the Gironde estuary, which forks into the Garonne and Dordogne, lie the sandier less gravel-laden soils of Saint-Émilion. The appellation favors the juicer offerings of Merlot, with Cabernet Sauvignon taking a backseat in blends – although there are 60 hectares within the commune that have gravel-based soils and where Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are predominantly grown.
Compared to its Right Bank neighbor Pomerol, which has both Petrus and Le Pin in its arsenal, Saint-Émilion is relatively modest with its most expensive offering coming in at $743. Just for context, the most expensive Pomerol is Petrus at $3259 and the most expensive Bordeaux overall is the Graves wine, Liber Pater at $4150. So, if you’re looking for the rich rounded flavors of the Right Bank and Pomerol is slightly beyond your budget, Saint-Émilion could be the answer. It has all the history and quality winemaking you can expect from Bordeaux – all the wines listed below have aggregated critic scores well into the 90s – but without the overheated price tags.
The below may be a list of the most expensive but it’s not short of a bargain or two.
1. Château Ausone, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Taking the crown for most expensive at $743, this estate is one of the elite group of producers with Premier Grand Cru Classé A status. Named after the Roman poet Decimus Magnus Ausonius, who wrote glowingly about the Bordeaux region and its wines, the estate has been carefully hewn out of the surrounding limestone, its obvious age and weathered walls help meld it back into the surrounding landscape. Championing the classic blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, the wine is a favorite with critics and has a grand score of 96 points.
2. Château Cheval Blanc, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Another member of the Premier Grand Cru Classé A club is the white horse estate of Cheval Blanc. Widely lauded as one of the finest wines made in the region, and one of the best expressions of a Cabernet Franc-based blend in the world, it’s not really a surprise that this wine is the second most expensive on this list. At $687, it’s marginally cheaper than Ausone and the critics are just as keen on it, giving it an aggregated score of 96.
3. Château Angelus, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Chiming in third place (sorry) is Angelus. The estate is named after the church bells, whose sound is amplified by the surrounding hills that act as an amphitheater. The evocative sound of these bells has inspired not only the name of the estate but great pieces of art such as The Angelus by the French impressionist Jean-François Millet, which currently resides in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Despite being the third player to make up the holy quartet of Premier Grand Cru Classé A, it’s almost half the price of the previous two at $390 a bottle and it still has an impressive score of 94 points.
4. Château Pavie, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Pavie
is the last of the Premier Grand Cru Classé A estates and is most known
for its Merlot-centric grand cru wine. The estate sits on limestone
soils that are said to have been planted with vines since Roman times.
The estate has also become famous for being the subject of public spats
between leading wine writers who could not agree over Pavie’s new
penchant for creating fruit bombs – no prizes for guessing who was a
fan. As fourth most expensive at $335, this is hardly extortionate
stuff, at least not compared to the DRCs of this world, and despite
being Marmite for critics, it still has a very impressive score of 94
5. La Mondotte, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru In fifth place is the diminutive estate of La Mondotte with their lone but highly successful offering. Situated on a tiny 4.5 hectares of clay-limestone, the entire estate is dedicated to a single wine made mostly from Merlot, with the rest topped up by Cabernet Franc. The grapes are grown from 60-year-old vines and harvested by hand. The resulting wine comes in at $251 with another great score of 94.
6. L’If, Saint-Emilion The younger sibling of Pomerol’s Le Pin, the estate was bought by Jacques Thienpont in 2010 and, as Le Pin is named after a pine tree on its grounds, L’If is named after a yew tree. All well and dendrological, but what about the actual wine? It’s a Merlot blend with a large splash of Cabernet Franc and it is among the most reasonably priced on this list with a price tag of $244. It drinks well too, with critics giving it an aggregated score of 92 points.
7. Château Le Tertre-Rôteboeuf, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru This property is another estate that specializes in making a single wine – again a Merlot-dominant, Cabernet Franc blend. This tiny estate covers 6 hectares and only produces 2000 cases a year, with the wine known to be exceptionally intense and rich in flavor. So, $217 for a wine this exclusive doesn’t seem to unreasonable especially when it comes with an aggregated critic score of 93.
8. La Chapelle d’Ausone, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru As
the second wine of Château Ausone, it’s no surprise La Chapelle makes
this list. Priced at only $206 a bottle, it is less than a third of the
price of the château’s flagship wine and it’s not to compromised by
score either, holding an aggregate of 92 points.
9. Château Figeac, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Figeac is ranked a Premier Grand Cru Classé and, despite having a history that can be dated back to Roman times, it is generally acknowledged that the estate really came into its own during World War II under the ownership of Thierry Manoncourt, when its reputation elevated it to become one of the most wanted of the Right Bank Bordeaux. Setting it apart from many of the other Saint-Émilion estates is the large presence of Cabernet Sauvignon alongside Cabernet Franc. Merlot, in this instance, takes a cameo role. At $203 with an aggregated score of 94 points, Figeac offers surprisingly good value despite featuring on a most expensive list.
10. Château Valandraud, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Bringing up the rear is this Merlot-forward offering. Unlike many of the estates on this list, Valandraud actually has a reasonably large portfolio and is often considered one of the pioneers of the Bordeaux movement for garagiste wines. The wine that makes the list is the grand cru, which has garnered an aggregated critic score of 93 points and, at $194, is almost bargain material.