If you’ve recently scanned the Cellarit Wine Market you may have noticed that a bottle of 1990 Château Pétrus is available for $4,700. It’s not the most expensive bottle on the list. That honour belongs to a 375 ml 1952 Penfolds Grange signed by Max Schubert and available for $12,500. But nevertheless the price does seem extraordinary for an item that, after all, is designed to be eventually consumed! (Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate, who scored the 1990 Pétrus 100 points, gives a drinking window of 2014 – 2054, Wine Advocate # 183 June 2009.)

But a look at the price history of the wine clearly suggests that it is on an upward trajectory. Wineprices.com, which records wine auction prices, shows that the average price at auction for a Pétrus 1990 in 2003 was US$1250.98. 2011’s average auction price (42 lots to date have been sold) is US$4,095.35. That’s a 225% price appreciation in eight years.

As widely reported in the press, the Asian wine market is booming. Almost every Hong Kong wine auction sets a new record and mainland Chinese buyers, in particular, can’t seem to get their hands on enough quality Bordeaux. (see The Two Speed Wine Market, Cellarit Wine Blog, 19 October 2010).

Price appreciation for the Pétrus 1990, however, pre-dates the Asian boom of the last two years. Between 2003 and 2008 the price went up by approximately 188%. During the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), the price fell approximately 33 per cent before recovering and then eclipsing its pre-GFC highs – a performance that certainly looks better than most Blue Chip stock charts (especially in recent days)!

So why does this wine in particular command such high prices? We hear the terms ‘cult’ or ‘icon’ bandied around a lot in reviews or … Read the rest