This past weekend, hundreds of wine buyers and media descended on Napa Valley for one of the highest profile wine events of the year. Premiere Napa Valley is a trade-only auction that raises money for the Napa Valley Vintners, a non-profit that acts as a marketing and trade organization for the Valley's >500 vintners. Wines go for mind-numbing amounts and end up in the cellars of the wine collecting glitterati - and very occiasionally on a restaurant wine list.
The average price per bottle (of a total 21,000) sold this year was $286. The highest priced lot went for $115,000, or close to $2,000/bottle, and the auction raised a record breaking $6 million.
Here's how the average bottle price varied depending on appellation, variety and the number of cases per lot.
Average Bottle Price by # of Cases per Lot
The most dramatic average bottle price variance occurred with relation to lot size. Lots of 5 cases beat the average bottle price by nearly 50%, while lots of 10 and 20 cases underperformed by 30% and 37% respectively. For this reason, in the charts below, I look first at average pricing for all lots, and then at average pricing for 5 case lots only.
Average Bottle Price by Varietal
Unsurprisingly, Cabernet Sauvignon commanded the highest per bottle price, averaging $314. The top Cabernet Sauvignon lot, BRAND Napa Valley, was nearly $2,000 per bottle. Interestingly, the second highest average bottle price was Sparkling Wine, of which there were only two lots, by Schramsberg ($400/bottle) and Domaine Chandon ($200/bottle). It's also interesting to note that of the top 5 varietals/blends, three are in fact white, including the first ever Chenin Blanc to appear at Premiere courtesy of Lang & Reed.
The story changes slightly when we look at 5 case lots only. Here the overall average bottle price kicks up to $426, and Red Wine (indicating a red blend) takes the stop spot, followed closely by Cabernet Sauvignon. White wines continue to outperform other red varietals, though none is above the average for this group.
Number of Lots by Variety
Variety - # of Lots
Cabernet Sauvignon - 175
Red Wine - 23
Pinot Noir - 6
Cabernet Franc - 4
Merlot - 4
Sauvignon Blanc - 3
Chardonnay / Malbec / Sparkling Wine - 2
Chenin Blanc / Muscadine / Petit Verdot / Petite Sirah - 1
An overwhelming majority of lots submitted to Premiere are Cabernet Sauvignon. 175 in total, they account for 78% of all lots and 82% of the total dollars raised during the auction. The second most common Variety is actually Red Blend, making up 23 lots, or 10% of the total. The remaining eleven varieties account for only 12% of lots and 7% of the value.
Average Bottle Price by Appellation
The spread of average bottle price by appellation is tighter, but at nearly $400/bottle, Stags Leap clearly outperforms the average, while Los Carneros (~$150/bottle) clearly underperforms. This is also influenced by the the fact that the lots from Stags Leap were primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, while Los Carneros lots were prodominantly Pinot Noir. Of note, although Stags Leap overall had the highest average bottle price, of the top 30 lots only 1 was from that AVA (Shafer Vineyards, at ~$1,300/bottle).
As noted above, adjusting the sample to only 5 case lots changes the story quite a bit. Here we see that the most dramatic outperforming appellation is Howell Moutain, at $650/bottle, outperforming the 5-case-lot per bottle average of $426. In fact, the lowest per bottle price for a Howell Mountain wine in a 5 case lot was $467 (O'Shaughnessy) while the highest was Arkenstone at $833.
Number of Lots by Appellation
Unlike variety, the distribution wines from each appellation was relatively broad. Also unlke variety, the most expensive appellation was not the most common. Napa Valley designated wines accounted for 37% of lots, versus Stags Leap with only 4%.
Appellation - # of Lots
Napa Valley - 84
St. Helena - 25
Oakville - 23
Rutherford - 16
Calistoga - 11
Coombsville - 11
Stags Leap - 10
Los Carneros - 9
Yountville - 7
Howell Mountain / Spring Mountain - 6
Mount Veeder - 5
Atlas Peak / Diamond Mountain - 4
Oak Knoll - 3
Chiles Valley District - 1
So, to sum up, if you're looking to make a splash at next year's Premiere, you should definitely only do 5 cases, you should preferably source the fruit from Howell Mountain, and you should make a red blend, though Cabernet Sauvignon will do in a pinch.