Do You Agree With This Definition of "Cult Wine"?

Tom’s definition was good 10-15 years ago.

This board has argued whether or not HSS is considered cult before, so just the fact that the disagreement took place means that there are some who consider it a cult Cab. I’m pretty sure mention of Lokoya came in one or two of those same threads just because the ParkerPerfect scores elevated their demand somewhat and definitely their price - and I know I was the one who brought up Lokoya at least once in those discussions, just as an example of release price rising due to high scores. IIRC, it was Ian who made the best case for Lokoya not being a cult Cab.

I also think it’s not a binary discussion. Is Giacosa a cult wine while making that many bottles vs say a small California producer making 50-60 cases of something or a rare auction German Riesling with maybe 10 cases? Is DRC a cult wine? It’s certainly not a micro producer! I think you can have MORE culty wines then others but have them both still be cult wines.

I think demand outstripping supply by a far margin in most vintages is necessary. I think it has to be somewhat or very rare to see in a market or in general. Rarity takes away the vast majority of the 1st growths as cults wine, things like Cristal or DP. Outrageous price for what is on offer can mitigate that to a degree. It’s not really hard to get a Petrus but I would still consider it a cult because while many people could source one, most could not buy one.

I think it has to be either one of the best expressions of its type or a very differentiated expression of type/place or just something you don’t see often at all (Gravner/Jadikot come to mind here) but that is still in demand.

So is Margaux or Latour a cult? No. Not enough demand and not rare enough.

Selosse? Yes, one of the best expressions, differentiated, rare, (unfortunately now) outrageous price (for vintage anyways).

Beaucastel? No but Hommage I would argue yes. The Blanc VV is maybe at the outside edge.

Shafer HSS? Maybe due to demand but the One Point Five almost certainly not.

Grange? Probably too much supply like a 1st growth with it only being one of many very top expressions of its type.

Unico? Even though there’s a lot produced I’d say there is less competition as being the best of its type and differentiated in the multi-vintage wines.

Cult wines are (1) the target of hype, and (2) are tightly allocated and/or in limited supply.

Thank you all for your responses.

Someone above noted it sounded like a definition of cult wine from 15 years ago. Interestingly, I wrote that definitiion 15 years ago who wanted a simple explanation of “cult wine”.

I should have also mentioned, as some pointed out, that it was in fact a definition specifically meant to reference North American wines.

It seems pretty clear though, even 15 years later, that an American cult wine is at least a wine that sells out due to a demand that far exceeds supply. This happened 15 years ago very commonly even without any help from Robert Parker, but those wines tended to be in small production and tended to be sold exclusively to mailing list customers. But I would not call these “cult” wines in the traditional sense that we once knew them because one of the elements of culthood seemed then also to be notoriety due to the high scores that catapulted some wines to the “cult” status.

So here’s what I’m wondering about 2016. What would it take for winery in the U.S. that had never sold a wine for more than $100 release a 300 cases of wine at $400 a bottle and sell out the first vintage of that wine in less than 3 months without any three tier distribution and with no reviews or ratings?

Thank you again everyone.


It would take a miracle. Press / advertising / hype of some type is what drives the Cult Cabs.

Original cult wine for me was Le Pin ( also a garage wine )
very small production 5-8 barrels ( 100-200 cases )
High Parker score ( that’s what created the cult )

For me cult wines are priced higher than I can afford (or justify) and I can’t buy if I wanted to except at auction. Examples:



The problem now is that there are lots of really expensive, small productions wines, and price resistance is increasing since the quality differential isn’t there AND the former taste mover is now a pariah to the sorts of folks who used to buy the hype. It would probably be possible to find 300 people with too much money and shit for brains, but they would not create a cult wine, they would be suckers.

Interesting question. I think (and I’m just throwing this out there to be dissected) is that you’d need the perfect combination of legendary winemaker (think Opus One/Dominus status, not just another Michel Rolland), access to US “grand cru” fruit, and some sort of marketing campaign that gets the word out, quietly, but also quietly lets you know you can’t buy it (No website, no option to even sign up for a mailing list, etc). Think if Aubert de Villaine made a Pinot Noir from Marcassin Vineyard, and marketed it correctly, that would do the trick.

Does your question imply that the winemakers, owners or vineyard has never produced a wine that cost more than $100?

Tom - I would think that you need some buzz, kind of like Oprah creates out of the air for a book by an unknown author she turns into a sudden best-seller. How to get that I don’t know exactly.

It used to be with a big Parker note and score. Today, maybe a shot in a movie or something. Or maybe some kind of buzz on a wine forum?