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Screaming Eagle Thwarts "Selfish Greed"

Screaming Eagle Thwarts "Selfish Greed"
© Screaming Eagle
Californian cult winery checks opportunistic trading.

Prices of Screaming Eagle’s first-ever sauvignon blanc have soared so high that the cult winery has decided to limit future production to prevent profiteering.

The Napa Valley producer recently offered 600 bottles of 2010 Screaming Eagle Sauvignon Blanc at $250 each to long-standing customers, on the condition that the bottles would not be offered on the secondary market (e.g. via a broker or auction house). However, the same wine is now being sold at an eye-watering $2,150 a bottle by Californian fine-wine retailer Cult Wines, while a six-bottle case listed by Spectrum Wine Auctions has an estimate of $7,000. The highest bid at the time of writing was $5,650.

“The original purpose was for the direct-to-consumer channel and a few select restaurants," said Patrick Chapman from Screaming Eagle. "It was for their personal use only. And, of course, people said it was for their personal use only, but the reality [is] that it wasn’t. People are turning it over for profit, for their own selfish greed.”

As a result of this profiteering, Screaming Eagle has decided to halve the size of its 2011 sauvignon blanc release to just 300 bottles. They will be “for personal consumption and special events, ordered through the winery,” to prevent opportunistic trading.

The price now being asked for Screaming Eagle sauvignon blanc is many times higher than the very best examples from the Loire and Bordeaux – where the grape is considered to reach its finest expression. For example, Didier Dagueneau’s flagship Pouilly Fumé, Asteroide, currently retails at an average $692 (excluding sales tax), while a 2010 Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc fetches around $853 (ex. tax) per bottle.

The winemaking techniques used for Screaming Eagle's sauvignon blanc included fermenting half of the wine in barrel and half in stainless steel. Ten percent of the juice went through malolactic fermentation before aging in French oak for four months.

In another new development, Screaming Eagle has announced that it will launch a second label, Second Flight, this fall. The cabernet sauvignon-dominant wine is a blend of different barrels that were declassified by Screaming Eagle during blending. Chapman explained that the winery has been making Second Flight since 2006, and “the initial release will be a six-pack – one bottle of '06, three bottles of '07, a bottle of '08 and a bottle of '09.” The six-pack will again be offered to its 2,500 “active members” at $900.

It is probable that a large proportion of fruit from the vineyard's younger vines will be used in Second Flight. Thirty acres (12.14ha) of vines were replanted in 2006 and by next year they will take the productive vineyard area to 48.21 acres (19.5ha). However, Chapman reports that annual production of the two Screaming Eagle labels will only rise from 750 to 1,000 cases. The remainder of the grapes are likely to be included in Second Flight.

Screaming Eagle's flagship red
© Screaming Eagle | Screaming Eagle's flagship red

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  • Comments

    Bill wertzberger wrote:
    26-Jun-2012 at 16:45:46 (GMT)

    It can't possibly cost them more than ten bucks a bottle to produce that crap. But it's ironic that the twits who buy things such as Screaming Eagle's wines and Jeff Koons' art at outrageous prices wind up profiting by selling them at even more outrageous prices. We need a return to the rational good old days of the Dutch tulip craze.

  • duncan forsyth wrote:
    24-Jun-2012 at 21:54:06 (GMT)

    Hah ha - this is gold, the poster child for winery greed plays "we are the people" and pulls a stunt like this. If you are stupid enough to not see through all of this for what it is then you deserve to pay more and frankly at least the "profiteers" are at least being honest in what they are

  • raley roger wrote:
    21-Jun-2012 at 18:06:50 (GMT)

    This is so transparently a PR stunt. I'm surprised more industry insiders don't see if for what it is. The SC folks don't care one wit if their list flips their wines. It's what keeps SC relevant. This is a very "Hollywood" move; issue PR about something that contradicts one's true motives. Such a greedy and silly move. Jeez. I'm so tired of all of these over-hyped wines.

  • Robert James wrote:
    20-Jun-2012 at 21:05:31 (GMT)

    Cult wines are cult wines, even Screaming Eagle's good intentions of rewarding their list members gets caught up in hype & greed. Instead of designating that their members not sell the wine, they should take a few extra steps & number each bottle, and drop list members who can't abide by the winery's wishes of "personal use only" when those bottles show up at auctions. The threat of the "hammer" may be a more effective way to control people rather than to cut production, which would only drive up demand and make selling that much more attractive. They could also limit quantities to each list member to 2 bottles, instead of 6 pack quantities. Screaming Eagle could also put those extra 300 bottles which they might not make to good use by donating them for auction to worthy charities that are suffering from the lack of donations during the continued economic weakness.

  • JW wrote:
    20-Jun-2012 at 15:37:53 (GMT)

    Humorous that Screaming Eagle, an innovative and pioneering force in the overpriced cult wine market, is throwing around the "selfish greed" stone.

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