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.