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    Lamb Stew with Root Vegetables

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Little-known Burgundy is world’s priciest wine at €14,254

A rare Burgundy has been named the world’s most expensive wine at an average price of more than €14,254 ($15,000) and, in a surprise to wine connoisseurs, it is not a Romanee-Conti.

Instead, the title of the priciest drop went to the 1985 Richebourg Grand Cru, from the Côtes de Nuit range, at €14,254 for a 75ml bottle, according to UK website WineSearcher, which released its annual list of the world’s most expensive wines. It was created by Henri Jayer, a winemaker widely considered a visionary in the business who died in 2006 at the age of 84.

A Romanee-Conti, Burgundy's most famous fine wine, took second place, with the vineyard’s Grand Cru coming in at an average price $13,314 (€12,141) a bottle. There were two other Romanee-Conti’s on the list, in 17th and 30th place. Another Henri Jayer wine, his Cros-Parantoux, Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru, took third place at $8,832 a bottle.

In fact, Burgundy wines were astoundingly dominant in the rankings, based on price lists from nearly 55,000 wine merchants concerning more than seven million wines of all vintages. Not only did wines from the Burgundy region take the top three spots, they accounted for 40 of the 50 wines on the list.

Bordeaux, known as France’s most prestigious wine region, has only two items on the list, both Pomerols: the Petrus and a Le Pin.

Unsurprisingly, nearly all the wines on the list were French. Two German winemakers, Egon Mueller and Joh. Jos. Pruem, each have two bottles on the list, including Mueller's Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese demi-sec selling for $6,630 at fourth place.

The only other non-French wine is Californian vintner Stanley Kroenke's Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, coming in at 14th place with a $2,884 price tag.



The Story

Richebourg is a king of a wine: the colonnade of the Louvre, the Château of Versailles. You are impressed by its finesse, its length and its delicate sensations, endlessly changing. The fact that no element dominates the others enables you to appreciate all of its aromas, on the nose and on the palate. In any given vintage, Richebourg is always one of the last wines to be drunk. Not because it is too aggressive when young; simply because it needs time to reveal its full complexity.


Vintage 1985

1985 Burgundy by Clive Coates MW / The 1985 vintage represents a turning point in the wine history of Burgundy. Before this date, on the whole, winegrowers made wine, merchants bought it, assembled several plots, if necessary, and sold it. Subsequently, more and more estates began to mature, bottle and market the wines themselves. In the meantime, many merchants had taken the opportunity to expand their own estates, so that, particularly at the upper end, they were more or less self-sufficient. In the 1970s, and earlier, there were barely around twenty producers – we think of Rousseau, Dujac, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Gouges, Lafarge and Leflaive – who did not sell in bulk. Many of today's super-stars bottled only a token quantity and were unknown to even the most perceptive merchant or journalist.

The emergence of these new areas is transforming Burgundy. In a very short time, almost everyone who had a grand cru and many who had a good premier cru were bottling as much as they could themselves. There was, of course, the question of cash flow. If you sold to a merchant, you were paid in full at the time of the next vintage. If you sold in bottles, you didn't get the money until about two and a half years later, after bottling 18 months after harvest and possible shipping in winter thereafter. We would therefore not be able, unless we were otherwise financed, to move from bulk sales to bottled sales overnight. I remember the late Philippe Engel explaining to me that the transformation for him took ten years.

The process was encouraged by local residents. Burgundy is a generous wine region. Most growers are on very good terms with their neighbors and are only too happy to help if there is a problem. Naturally, the best ones have a queue of potential buyers waiting to step in if one of the regular customers falls through. What could be more natural for the important owner of the much sought-after estate than to recommend a hitherto unknown young neighbor who was looking for business. If he or she was a cousin or in-law, so much the better.


Moreover, the quality was improving, and by leaps and bounds. The best growers went to Viti in Beaune then to the University of Dijon. Many left for a stopover in California or Australia, or elsewhere in France. Tasting each other’s wines with your neighbors has become commonplace. Firstly, selling your wine under your own label required you not to cut corners, which you might have been tempted to do if you were simply selling in bulk. Tasting your wine alongside those of your friends and reading a review of it in a wine magazine will soon tell you whether you are producing superior quality or not. Second, viticulture and viticulture techniques had become increasingly sophisticated. There has been a return to plowing and the elimination of herbicides and pesticides. The size of the harvest was taken into greater account. And finally the introduction of the sorting table: the greatest contribution to increasing quality of all. Today, everyone has a sorting table. The first time I saw it was Domaine de la Romanée-Conti when I was making a video in 1987. Finally, after a disappointing run of vintages in the 1970s and early 1980s, 1985 ushered in a series of high quality years that continues to this day. Burgundy has not had a bad vintage since 1984. Thirty years.

The consequence of all this is that it is increasingly difficult for everyone, not just the outside journalist, to keep up. Every year, new areas, worthy of exploration and waiting to be discovered. In 1985, I visited six estates in Gevry, four in Morey and Chambolle and perhaps eight in Vosne. Today I should visit 25 in Gevrey, and so on. A marathon for which I no longer have the energy. I am very lucky to have been there at the time and to have experienced what was an exciting time in Burgundy.


Average Bottle Price

2017 2015 2014 2012 2010 2005 2000
14 320€ -20.5% 18 009€ +8.9% 16 540€ +0.6% 16 434€ +51.5% 10 845€ +290.1% 2 780€ +107.2% 1 342€

This data comes from the FINE Auction Index, a composite of average prices for wines sold at commercial auctions in 20 countries. The average prices from each year have been collected since 1990. This chart plots the index value of the average price of the wines.

Tasting note


Deep, Brick red and Healthy


Long and Extensive


Vanilla, Voluptuous, Earthy and Truffles


Open, Ripe and Seductive




Concentrated, Multi-dimensional, Well-structured, Full-bodied, Fruity, Focused and Vigor

Written Notes

This 1985 Richebourg was served together with Jayer’s famous 1978 Richebourg. The 1978 seemed surprisingly the younger of the two, but the 1985 was superior in many ways. 1978 was harder with the tannins more apparent and chewy, tasting meatier. The 1985 was fatter and had additional layers of fruit that were lacking in the 1978. The 1985 has a definitely better balance and longer aftertaste as well. Somehow this bottle of 1978 was now much more closed and ‘undrinkable’ than some previous ones. Nevertheless, this beautiful 1985 Richebourg is a very full-bodied wine with tannins fully resolved, and as it opens it becomes even more mouth-coating and rich, with denser fruit flavours and another long, long finish. Great wine from a great Man!
  • 100p

Amazing from first sip to last, remarkably complex, layered and textured, smooth and supple, with a seductive creamy mocha oak presence to the long, expansive aftertaste, where the flavors cascade on top of one another.

  • 100p
Moderately intense, cherry red colour. Pronounced, opulent and complex nose delivers tempting aromas of wild strawberries, licorice, forest floor, cepes, root vegetables, and flowers. Medium-bodied palate is vivid and intense delivering loads of sweet red fruits. The structure is immensely silky and rich touch of alcohol is so well-integrated into the concetrated wine. The wine is not only lingering - it gets under the skin and seduces like a seirene. Highly irresistable wine.
  • 98p
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Beaune, Burgundy

Vintage Quality


Value For Money


Investment potential


Fake factory

Be Cautious

Glass time


Drinking temperature


Inside Information

Burgundy Book 
Jan 1990
Robert M. Parker, Jr. 96 Drink: N/A  
The Richebourg should reach its full potential around 1994-1995, and the staggering concentration of fruit, tight structure, and smashing length of this wine are the sorts of things that make great burgundy legendary.

When asked why his wines are so consistently great, Jayer simply responds, "I make the kind of wine I like." His wines are aged in 100% new oak, are never filtered, and are bottled directly from the barrel. The excellent color and well-delineated, intense Pinot Noir fruit he gets could well come from his special "cold maceration," which involves totally destemming the grapes after picking and putting them in tanks where they stay before the fermentation starts. 

Modern oenologists would no doubt be horrified at such a process as the risk of oxidation is high, but never, ever have I tasted a volatile or oxidized bottle of wine from Jayer. As he says, to make great wine, one must assume certain risks. Jayer feels his finest vintages are 1978, 1985, 1980, and 1986. The 1985s are all quite profound, deeply colored, and packed with fruit. They should last and improve until at least 1997-2003. They are more tannic than many other 1985s.
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