Cult Wine Price: Understanding the Value of Cabernet Sauvignon


Cult wine prices are based on a number of factors, including the rarity of the wine and its projected market value.

Cult wine prices are based on a number of factors, including the rarity of the wine and its projected market value.

A cult wine, Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, was once the second-most expensive wine ever sold at auction, and in 2021, this label was the seventh most traded wine in the world. This isn’t unusual for cult wines, either. On average, cult wine prices are higher than they are for other types of Cabernet Sauvignon produced in the New World. How do wines like this retain so much value on the market? And what sets them apart from their non-cult peers?

In this guide to cult wine prices, you’ll not only learn what you can expect to pay for a bottle of fine cult wine but also why these wines consistently perform so well on the market. With this understanding, you’ll have all of the information you need to select the best wines for your collection or start a cult wine investment that you can use to plan for the future.

How Does Cult Cabernet Sauvignon Differ from Other Fine Wines?

To understand why a cult wine’s price tag is often higher than other bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon, you must first consider what defines a cult wine.

A cult wine is any fine wine that has a demand far greater than its supply. The term “cult” wine refers to the cult-like following some labels and producers have among wine enthusiasts. Some collectors will pay far more for a rare bottle of cult wine than they would for nearly any other New World Cabernet Sauvignon.

The lines between a blue-chip wine and a cult wine are often blurry. Many of the most reputable cult wines, like Screaming Eagle, are also considered blue-chip wines. So, many blue-chip wines are cult wines and many cult wines are considered blue-chip. But not all. Blue-chip refers to a wine’s investment potential while “cult” status refers to more ephemeral qualities. In simplest terms, if a wine is rare, in high demand, and is a Cabernet Sauvignon produced in a top California wine region like Napa Valley, chances are it’s considered a cult Cabernet wine.

While not every fine wine is necessarily a cult wine, all cult wines are fine wines. This is true both for the quality of the wine and the price. Prices for cult wines are often similar to other fine wines because they all have a disproportionate relationship between supply and demand. A blue-chip Bordeaux wine like Château Lafite Rothschild, for instance, is often sold at a similar price point as a cult wine like Screaming Eagle.

However, the greatest price difference exists between cult California Cabernet Sauvignon and other types of Cabernet Sauvignon produced in the New World. Mass-produced Cabernet is not only typically lower in quality than cult wines, but its lack of rarity also means collectors are unlikely to invest large sums in individual bottles. This in turn negatively affects the wine’s projected value. Part of the appeal of cult wines is that investors can, in theory, purchase a wine while it’s still young and resell the bottle many years later (sometimes as long as 15 or 20 years) for a profit. If a wine was rare to begin with, then it will only become rarer over time as bottles are consumed or even damaged. For example, the 2010 Screaming Eagle vintage was valued at about $1,600 per bottle in 2013, and today, that same wine is valued at $5,200 per bottle, on average. A table wine, even one that is high in quality, cannot compete with cult wines on the rarity front, and this is why collectors flock to cult wines like Screaming Eagle, Harlan Estate, and Opus One.

What is the Average Cult Wine Price?

Now that you know why a cult wine price is generally higher than the price of other non-cult Cabernet Sauvignon labels, it’s important to know what to expect when you invest in these wines for yourself. It’s difficult to state precisely what the average cult wine price is, as it varies significantly by vintage. Since most cult Cabernet Sauvignon is produced in Napa Valley, it’s generally the case that the most valuable wines are those made in the top-rated Napa vintages, which include:

  • 2018
  • 2016
  • 2013
  • 2010
  • 2009
  • 2008
  • 2007
  • 1999
  • 1997
  • 1996
  • 1995
  • 1994

So, if you have your eye on a bottle from one of these vintages, it’s probable that this bottle is one of the more valuable ones from that producer, and it may continue to grow in price over time, as these vintages are sought-after among cult Cabernet enthusiasts.

However, if you’re unsure of which vintages you’d like to invest in, or you simply want a list of average, ballpark cult wine prices, below you’ll find a chart that highlights some of the top-traded cult Cabernet wines on the market, along with their average price (per 750 ml bottle) across all vintages. Keep in mind that some vintages are more expensive than others, however.

So, based on the information in the chart, the average cult wine price is approximately $1,000 a bottle, taking into account the averages for all of the top producers above. Most collectors spend between $500 and $1,000 on cult wines other than Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate (which generally are more expensive).

One unique aspect of investing in cult wines is that price can be an indicator of demand and projected value over time. While it’s always possible for a wine to lose value, typically the most valuable cult wines in the world maintain a certain prestige among collectors. Demand for fine cult Cabernet hasn’t waned in recent years, and many of these labels continue to dominate their respective markets.

How to Start a Cult Cabernet Sauvignon Collection

Knowing average cult wine prices is only the first step in the process. If you want to start a collection of your own or you’ve thought about investing in wine more seriously, then you’ll need to know which labels and vintages are the best fit for your needs. One way to approach this process is to scan the chart above and identify the wines that fit within your budget. While some vintages may be more expensive, you’ll find most bottles in that average price range.

However, one issue you may face as you search for wines to add to your collection is that some bottles may not be readily available. Many cult wine producers sell their wines through an exclusive mailing list, and without a place on that list, it can be more difficult to find the wines you want. This is where it helps to use a trusted wine retailer. Some retailers, like Vinfolio, have access to wine allocations that are normally only available to mailing list members, and you can find these wines on the online marketplace. These wines also have excellent provenance, as they are shipped directly from the cult winery to Vinfolio’s storage warehouse.

Another option, if you are new to wine investing, is to use Vinfolio’s portfolio management services. With this service, a wine expert builds your investment portfolio for you based on your budget and other personalized needs.

Using these tools and services, coupled with a deeper understanding of cult wine prices, you can start your own collection of the finest cult wines in the world and see firsthand what makes these wines so special.