One hundred dollars is a formidable price point for a bottle of wine. In the past five years, I have reviewed 114 New Zealand wines with a price tag of $100 or more. I have eliminated vintages and selected the top price for each brand. For example, I have reviewed five vintages of Clearview Endeavour Chardonnay, which counts as one wine in the total of 114. 

When I conducted a survey two years ago, there were 78 wines with three-digit price tags. That represented a significant increase of just over 46% on the number two years before.

Leading regions

Hawke’s Bay continues to lead the way, with 38 of the 114 reassuringly expensive wines. 

Northland/Auckland ranks second in the production of luxury labels, with a 22% share of this high-flying category, even though it produces only a small percentage of the country’s total wine overall. 

Syrah, blended reds and chardonnay are popular choices in both Hawke’s Bay and Northland/Auckland. 

Marlborough accounted for only six of the 114 wines retailing for $100 or more despite producing the lion’s share of the country’s grape harvest (over 80% in 2022). 

Nelson has just one wine priced in the “luxury goods” category, and Gisborne is notably absent from my list.

Price just one criterion

What does a wine need to become a luxury wine? It’s not just a matter of price, according to Peter Yeung and Liz Thach, authors of Luxury Wine Marketing: The Art and Science of Luxury Wine Branding (available from Amazon for $69.95), although a luxury wine should cost at least US$100 (NZ$158). 

Here are the seven criteria they say a wine must meet before it can justify being accorded a "luxury" label:

  • It should be of the highest quality.
  • It should come from a special place.
  • It should have an element of scarcity.
  • It must have an elevated price.
  • It should provide a sense of privilege and pleasure to the owner.
  • It must be able to improve with age.
  • It should sell well on the secondary market.

 On my “10 most expensive wines list” below, I have tagged the wines that I think deserve (●) or strongly deserve (★★ ) to be called “luxury wines”, although I acknowledge that there is a certain amount of subjectivity involved in their selection. 

For example, when does a wine reach the highest quality level and at what point does a wine provide a big enough sense of privilege and pleasure to qualify?

The criteria list is a useful guide, particularly for winemakers with their sights set on the highest level. 

It might also discourage wine marketers from describing their flagship wine as a “luxury” drop when it clearly doesn’t deserve it. 

New Zealand’s 10 most expensive wines

Destiny Bay Magna Praemia, Waiheke Island, $550 ★★

Destiny Bay Mystae, Waiheke Island, $375 ★★

Mills Reef Arthur Edmund Syrah, Hawke’s Bay, $350

Mills Reef Arthur Edmund Cabernet Merlot, Hawke’s Bay, $350

Waipara Pioneer Bruce Pinot Noir, North Canterbury, $300

No 1 Family Adele Cuvée, Marlborough, $270 ●

Bell Hill Single Block/Limeworks Chardonnay, North Canterbury, $235 ★★

Church Road Tom Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, Hawke's Bay, $220 ●

Puriri Hills Pope, Clevedon, $215 ★★

Waipara Pioneer Jillian Chardonnay, North Canterbury, $200
★★  Strongly qualifies for the “luxury wine” label 

● Qualifies for the “luxury wine” label