All things being equal, one would expect great Burgundies to fetch higher auction prices than Bordeauxs based on availability alone. And they did at a recent auction in New York, where the top-selling lots were Domaine de la Romanée-Conti bottlings that sold above estimate while a slew of Bordeaux first-growths realized less than their Wine Spectator Auction Index averages.
But that’s not usually the case, which is a surprise since there is far more great Bordeaux produced than Burgundy. The top growths in Bordeaux can produce 20,000 cases of great wine a year, which means buyers can secure cases. With Burgundy, or Pinot, you’re usually trying to hunt down a bottle or two.
And yet, with the exception of DRC and a few other top names in Burgundy Pinot Noir, the Bordeaux blends of Latour, Lafite, Pétrus, Cheval-Blanc—the list goes on and on, extending to the "super seconds" and beyond—consistently outperform their French Pinot counterparts in the secondary market. The discrepancy is even starker in California, where Cabernet outsells Pinot Noir upon release and at auction.
Why are these low-production Pinot Noirs even harder to find at auction? One reason is that the people buying them are drinking them. Pinot lovers are far more interested in the wine experience than in selling their treasured wines for profit.
Based on production numbers, the price discrepancy doesn't make much sense—why pay more for a 1,000-case Cabernet than a 200-case Pinot Noir? While it’s true that Pinot is catching on in a big way, it does not have the history or cachet that Cabernet does. But if my hunch is right, California Pinot collectors, like Burg hounds, aren’t flippers. They would be far less likely to overpay for a wine they plan to drink, unlike Bordeaux and Napa Cabernet collectors who may over-invest in a wine with the expectation that someone else will do the same a few years down the line.
I suspect that could change. Sonoma Pinot Noir is still a relatively new success sensation, and only really arrived on the American radar in the past decade or so. The rest of the world is beginning to take notice.
I wonder what California Pinot drinkers think. There are many thousands on the waiting list for Kosta Browne, and yet we don't see KB fetching Screaming Eagle money at auction. We don't really see much KB at auction at all … so is it true? Do all you Pinot Noir collectors out there drink everything you buy?
I'm curious to hear from Pinot collectors—and winemakers—about their mindset when collecting Pinot Noir. Do you think the world will eventually catch on, and we'll see the likes of KB, or Kistler, or Dehlinger next to DRC on the auction block? Or will California Pinot Noir fans save the best juice for themselves?