Sauternes – Best Value in Bordeaux

Today Sauternes and Barsac are the best value fine wines in Bordeaux – by a staggering 500%!

How can I make such a bold claim?  Well I’ve been an Englishman in Bordeaux working as a negociant since the early 1980s and I’ve kept detailed records of every wine I’ve ever bought, mostly on an old fashioned card index system, throughout this time.  With all the recent talk about the current prices in Bordeaux I looked back through my records and found some fascinating figures.

The current amazing value of Sauternes against the red wines of Bordeaux is best illustrated by looking at the cost of two fantasy mixed cases over time.

In my fantasy red case I imagined popping along to the following chateaux and buying at their first release price just one bottle each of: Calon Segur, Cos d’Estournel, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Haut Bailly, d’Issan, Lafite-Rothschild, Leoville-Barton, Lynch Bages, Mouton-Rothschild, Pape Clement, Pavie and Pontet-Canet.  A nice mix of First, Second, Third and Fifth Growth wines from across the Medoc with a Premier Grand Cru St Emilion and some Grand Cru Graves.

Against this my fantasy Sauternes case consists of one bottle each of: d’Arche, Climens, Doisy Daene, Filhot, Guiraud, de Malle, Nairac, de Rayne Vigneau, Rieussec, Sigalas Rabaud, Suduiraut and La Tour Blanche.  Seven First Growths, five Second Growths with nine wines from Sauternes and three from Barsac.

Lets take a look at the average bottle price of the two cases at various times between now and when I first bought Sauternes from the 1983 vintage (prices pre-1992 are converted from the old Franc at 6.56 – thanks Steve for the maths!).


1983 – 12.06 Euros, Vintage Rating (Parker) – 86 (Medoc), 89 (St Emilion & Graves)
1986 – 14.30 Euros, Vintage Rating (Parker) – 94 (Medoc), 89 (Graves), 88 (St Emilion)
1990 – 15.23 Euros, Vintage Rating (Parker) – 98 (Medoc & St Emilion), 90 (Graves)
1995 – 17.25 Euros, Vintage Rating (Parker) – 92 (Medoc), 89 (Graves), 88 (St Emilion)
2000 – 51.90 Euros, Vintage Rating (Parker) – 97 (Graves), 96 (Medoc & St Emilion)
2005 – 104.58 Euros, Vintage Rating (Parker) – 99 (St Emilion), 96 (Graves), 95 (Medoc)
2009 – 147.92 Euros, Vintage Rating (Parker) – 99 (Medoc), 98 (Graves), 93 (St Emilion)


1983 – 7.70 Euros, Vintage Rating (Parker) – 88
1986 – 8.77 Euros, Vintage Rating (Parker) – 94
1990 – 16.41 Euros, Vintage Rating (Parker) – 98
1995 – 14.11 Euros, Vintage Rating (Parker) – 85
2000 – 21.04 Euros, Vintage Rating (Parker) – 88
2005 – 26.15 Euros, Vintage Rating (Parker) – 96
2009 – 29.63 Euros, Vintage Rating (Parker) – n/a (but likely to be 98+)

Throughout the 1980s and most of the 1990s Sauternes prices kept pace with those of the red wines.  The 2000 vintage, however, changed the game and prices for the reds soared.  Sauternes missed out on this step change with an average vintage and a pattern was set.  Even when vintages were superb for both the reds and Sauternes in 2005 and 2009 all the speculation centred on the red wines.

We are now therefore in a situation where our case of Sauternes (which was slightly more expensive than our case of reds in 1990 when both vintages scored 98 points with Robert Parker) costs roughly five times less than our case of reds in 2009 (another 98 point vintage for both the reds and Sauternes).

Put another way the conclusion is that Sauternes and Barsac are the best value fine wines in Bordeaux by 500%!  Bill Blatch

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