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romanee contiIf you just want a really good bottle of wine, this is true. You can get really good wine for much less.

If you’re thinking purely in terms of production costs and a reasonable profit margin this is usually true. (Although the production costs of a bottle of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon from a very small producer who uses all new French Oak might send the price over that benchmark.)

However, wine pricing is not determined by production costs alone, and wine connoisseurs are not looking for just “really good”.

If what matters to you is distinctiveness, a wine that has a unique flavor profile, and lots of other people share your tastes, and the wine you love is in short supply you must pay for it.

Fall in love with the taste of Burgundy or Bordeaux, especially if your love interest happens to be the distinctive flavor of a particular vineyard or style such as Château Margaux or Romanée-Conti, and you will pay and pay and pay some more.

We have a tendency to think of wine quality in terms of some absolute scale of deliciousness in which, after a certain quality level is attained, wine can’t get much better. Based on that idea extremely high prices are about fashion and showing off, not intrinsic quality. There is certainly a lot of that in the wine world.

But that point of view ignores what really matters in wine aesthetics—distinctiveness and originality. Not everyone with deep pockets is an ignorant blowhard trying to show off for his side squeeze. Some connoisseurs really do know wine and have very particular tastes. If you fall in with that crowd it’s a good idea to have several homes to mortgage.

Choosing one’s friends is a perilous task.

Myths of the Wine World #1 is here.

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