You are currently viewing the International Edition. You can also switch to the Hong Kong Edition.
Wednesday 1 July 2015

Pauillac more costly to produce than Sauternes

29th August, 2012 by Patrick Schmitt

Cru classé Pauillac costs more to make than sweet wine from Sauternes, according to Vinfolio chairman Jean-Michel Valette MW.

During a lecture at Vienna’s Fine and Rare Specialist wine course last month, Valette debunked the idea that a botrytised sweet wine from Sauternes was Bordeaux’s most costly product to make using “real numbers from real wineries”.

Looking at factors such as the cost of land, farming, average yields and winemaking as well as packaging costs, he showed that a top red from Pauillac costs €29 per bottle to produce, whereas a sweet white from Sauternes comes out at €17.

Nevertheless, Valette’s figures do show that “farming” costs in Sauternes are slightly more expensive per bottle, costing €7 per bottle compared to €5 in Pauillac (see table 2 below).

Speaking generally about the findings, he said, “So many fine wine costs are remarkably similar across both styles and geography, but the biggest difference in cost comes from the value of the land.”

In his example, he said that vineyard for a Pauillac cru classé property costs €1.8 million per hectare to buy, and €300,000/ha in Sauternes, with yields in the two areas at 35 hl/ha and 17 hl/ha respectively.

Interestingly, he added that winemaking costs were slightly higher to make a Pauillac red than a Sauternes sweet wine, while packaging costs, which were a small proportion of the total, were the same.

Hence he commented, “Investing in packaging is a cheap way to look more expensive.”

Jean Michel Valette MW

He also compared the cost of producing such wines to a top Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon blend, and showed that a US fine wine from Napa would be more expensive to make than a Sauternes, though less than a Pauillac (see table 2, below).

He then considered whether fine wine retail prices were “fair” with an analysis of selling versus production and marketing costs (see table 3, below).

His calculations showed that the return on investment is lowest for a property in Pauillac.

“Nobody is making a huge amount of money even though half the bottle price is profit – the ROI is not a big number.”

He also pointed out that after the cost of land, the major expenses for any fine wine maker is selectivity in the vineyard and winery – or green harvesting, grape sorting and the proportion of press juice used, among other variables.

Finally, he stressed that the calculations for ROI don’t take into account the appreciation in land values which result from an improved winery reputation.

“This doesn’t include the fact that if you are doing a good job, the land value will go up,” he said, citing the probable appreciation of a highly rated property such as Pontet Canet, which is outperforming its fifth growth status.

“This [the results in table 3] just says that people who buy in now get a small return – but you make the real money when you sell the property.”

Hence, he stressed the temptation for owners of valuable estates to sell up and earn interest from the proceeds.

Summing up, he said that consumers of fine wine were “primarily paying for a special piece of land,” and that “land prices rise and fall with bottle prices, and vice versa.”

As for investing in a fine wine producing property, he quoted advice from Bill Harlan, owner and founder of Napa’s cult winery Harlan Estate, who said the way to make money is to find places where the potential is not yet realised, or, estates that “look bad, but are good.”

1. Bordeaux costs:
Pauillac cru classé Sauternes cru classé
Land cost/ha €1,800,000 €300,000
Farming cost/ha €23,000 €15,000
Yield hl/ha 35 17
First wine/second wine 50%/50% 50%/50%
Winemaking cost/hl €350 €250
Packaging per bottle €1.80 €1.90
2. Cost per bottle:
Pauillac Sauternes Napa fine wine
Land €19/bottle €7/bottle €8/btt
Farming €5 €7 €4
Winery €3 €2 €5
Packaging €2 €2 €3
Total €29/bottle €17/bottle €20/bottle
3. Return on investment:
Pauillac Sauternes Napa fine wine
Winery revenue/bottle €70 €35 €35
Production cost/bottle €29 €17 €20
Selling & admin/bottle €7 €4 €7
Profit/bottle €34 €14 €8
Profit/ha €52,100 €14,750 €25,900
Land cost/ha €1.8m €300,000 €514,000
ROI (%) 4% 5% 5%

4 Responses to “Pauillac more costly to produce than Sauternes”

  1. John Smits says:

    Nice story with figures.
    I think that the difference in harvest makes that the Sauturnes are more expensive. This is especially through the picking of the mature grape by grape. I don’t know the calculation of the land but in my opionion it must be spreaded over decades. Neverthless a nice story.
    Regards,
    John Smits
    http://www.AllAboutBordeauxWines.com

  2. David Singer says:

    Great article. One small issue, Bill Harlan is the owner and founder of Harlan and Bond, not Screaming Eagle.

  3. Patrick Schmitt says:

    Of course, and apologies. Now corrected. Thank you.

  4. Francois says:

    Patrick please explain the math in your profit/ha. Worked backwards- profit/ha devided by profit / btl as stated, neither Pauillac or Sauternes numbers end with your stated yields/ ha. Also any idea over how many vintages the cost of the land was factored into bottle cost?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

If that's interesting, how about these?

BI offers 2014 imperial collection en primeur

Fine wine merchant Bordeaux Index is offering its clients a 10 imperial more...

Australia puts quality centre stage

Wine Australia has pledged to invest AUD$35m annually for the next five years more...

Vinexpo: five days 'too much' says organiser

Vinexpo doesn’t need to run for the full five days because no visitor stays more...

London Sales Manager / Key Account Manager

London, United Kingdom

Competitive - depending on skills and experience

Top 10 ways to reuse a wine bottle

If you are anything like the db team, it won't take long to amass a collection more...

Rise for Haut Bailly in Liv-ex 2015 classification

Liv-ex’s bi-annual “re-classification” of Bordeaux saw Haut Bailly leap more...

Hart Davis Hart biggest in US

Chicago-based wine auctioneer Hart Davis Hart is the market leader in the US in more...

Digital and Communications Executive

£22,000-£26,000 dependent on experience

Bordeaux 2005: Biggest movers

Expectation surrounding the 2005s is building and pushing up prices for top more...

Top 10 architectural wonders of the wine world

You don't have to look far to find stunning examples of architectural prowess more...

Bordeaux 2005: 12 ‘perfect’ wines

Twelve wines have been given “perfect” 100-point ratings in Robert more...

Marketing and eCommerce Manager

London, United Kingdom

Competitive, includes equity options

China recognises 'Bordeaux'

China has said it now recognises the term “Bordeaux” as a brand after what more...

How to become a 'wine expert' in four hours

A doctor of psychology has devised 10 simple steps which he claims can set you more...

Burgundy headlines at Acker’s June HK auction

Featuring smaller-sized lots and classic vintages of Burgundy and Bordeaux, more...

Global Wine Buyer

London, United Kingdom

Competitive

Sutcliffe steps down from Sotheby’s role

Serena Sutcliffe MW has stepped down from her position as worldwide head of more...

Wine thieves go on trial

A gang of wine thieves accused of stealing a million euros worth of wine from more...

Bordeaux wine thieves found guilty

A French court has sentenced 15 men over the audacious theft of $1.1 million of more...

Wine Buyer

London, United Kingdom

Based on experience

Cockburn's to launch ‘lost’ 1977 vintage

Cockburn's is set to release its 1977 vintage for the first time as part of more...

En primeur: beware the heralded vintage?

From an investment point of view is it best to buy the “vintages of the more...

The London Wine Fair in pictures

From red trews and foie gras macaroons to 2CVs, wine on tap and temporary more...

Business Development Executive

London, United Kingdom

£25-£30K + benefits, depending on experience

Parker retrospective boosts 05 Palmer

Château Palmer’s 2005 is the latest wine from that vintage to see an more...

Top 10 wine brands 2015

In a year that saw major shifts in the global wine market, the drinks business more...