Henri Jayer’s Richebourg is the most expensive wine in the world. This red Burgundy, which is no longer in production, has the highest average price of all wines listed on Wine-Searcher. It averages out at $14,395 per bottle, a figure calculated across at least three vintages.
The price tag for this Burgundy grand cru tops the most expensive wine of 2011, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s Romanée-Conti – another Burgundy red currently selling at a mere $11,823 per bottle.
Born in 1922, the late Henri Jayer began to lease vines "en metayage" in Vosne-Romanée's Richebourg vineyard from the Noirot-Camuzet family. This sharecropping system meant that Jayer tended the vines and gave half of the fruit harvested back to the owners as payment.
The lease continued until 1987, which was the last year that Henri Jayer made Richebourg under his own label. The rarity of the product is certainly a factor in the stratospheric price.
In the intervening period, Jayer had purchased land around Vosne Romanée, including a vegetable patch which at that time was planted with Jerusalem artichokes. This parcel of land had formerly been the Cros Parantoux vineyard and the artichokes soon made way for vines. The plot was restored to its pre-phylloxera glory and became a premier cru vineyard in 1953. Today, its wines sell at an average of $5,436 per bottle – making it the world’s third most expensive wine, according to the Wine-Searcher database.
However, that seems reasonable in light of a recent sale at Christie’s in Hong Kong. A case of 1985 Cros Parantoux from Jayer’s private cellar fetched a record 2.06 million Hong Kong dollars ($265,645, or $22,137 per bottle) on February 11 this year.
At the same auction, a case of 1979 Richebourg Grand Cru sold for 1.82 million Hong Kong dollars ($234,709), less than the Cros Parantoux. Showing the voracious appetite that exists for top Burgundy in the Far East, three magnums of 1978 Richebourg were snapped up at an Acker Merrall & Condit auction a month later for 585,600 Hong Kong dollars ($75,077).
Jayer did not bottle all of his own wines until 1978, which means that wine lovers can find négociant bottlings of some vintages. This extraordinary winemaker retired in 1996, when his nephew, Emmanuel Rouget, took control of the domaine. However, Jayer continued to make wine for Rouget until 2001. He died five years later, aged 84. His wines continue to age gracefully.
*View the full list of the 50 most expensive wines in the world here.