The world’s top 10 most powerful fine wines4th February, 2013 by Patrick Schmitt
7. Screaming Eagle
Cult Napa Valley Cabernet blend Screaming Eagle is the only non-French wine brand in the top 10 most powerful fine wines.
Credited for cementing the cult wine concept in the early 90s, Screaming Eagle has endured to become California’s ultimate collectible brand.
Proving its ongoing appeal, the brand was 2012’s highest new entrant in the Liv-ex Power 100 survey of the worlds 100 most powerful fine wines, and one of only a handful of non-Bordeaux brands that shot up the list as collectors diversified into other regions.
However, Screaming Eagle’s current general manager, Armand de Maigret, doesn’t like the term “cult”, and considers the estate to be a Napa “first growth”.
With the average price for a case of Screaming Eagle around £16,500 per case, only Pétrus ranks as more expensive among the top 10.
As previous analysis in the drinks business has shown, Screaming Eagle is mostly bought for investment, along with Harlan and the newly collectible Sine Qua Non from Santa Barbara.
“The Screaming Eagle phenomenon is not healthy. Very few people buy Screaming Eagle to drink it. It has become a pure instrument of speculation, which is sad, as it’s a great wine,” said Antonio Galloni from The Wine Advocate.
This explains the rapid price appreciation of the label after its first release, with Elin McCoy, Bloomberg’s wine critic estimating that at least a third of Screaming Eagle’s mailing list customers immediately flip their bottles on the secondary market – an act the estate is keen to nip in the bud.
Nevertheless, such a trade ensures eye-watering prices at auction, with a 75cl bottle of 100 Parker-point 1997 selling for £2,267 at Christie’s New York in April last year.
Despite or perhaps because of its high price tag, Screaming is doing well in China, favoured in wealthy circles for its rarity.
“The combination of money and early-curve interest that drives cult wines has migrated to Asia. China wants Screaming Eagle, Harlan and Colgin as much as they once wanted Lafite and Latour,” believes Jon Bonné, columnist for San Francisco Chronicle.
A few facts:
- Screaming Eagle founder, Jean Phillips, released her first vintage in 1992. Made by Heidi Peterson Barrett, the wine scooped a 99-point Parker score.
- With just 2,100 bottles produced, its scarcity led to unprecedented demand. Working across 20 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot in Oakville, Napa Valley, production has increased since its early days, though it remains under a 1,000 cases a year.
- In 2006, Phillips received “an offer [she] couldn’t refuse,” from investment banker Charles Banks and property tycoon Stan Kroenke, and sold the winery for an estimated US$30m. Banks subsequently pulled out of the partnership in 2009, leaving Kroenke as the sole owner.
- The estate’s current general manager is Armand de Maigret.
- The current release price for Screaming Eagle hovers around US$750 a bottle, with a maximum allocation of three bottles a year for those on the mailing list.