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Expensive wine prices in the real world

expensive wine prices

“There is no way any bottle of wine is worth 10 times more than one of my performances.”

I can see Glenda Jackson and Justin Timberlake for $150, but the best I can do in wine at that price is far from legendary

For $150, I can watch Glenda Jackson do Edward Albee on Broadway. For $150, I can see Justin Timberlake perform in Dallas. But for $150, the best I can do in wine is hardly legendary – labels that even the cheerleading Winestream Media considers good, but not great. Legendary costs four or five or even 10 times Glenda Jackson, and that’s difficult to believe.

How did we get to this point? Most of us will never taste the world’s greatest wines, which have been priced out of our reach for decades. The 2005 Chateau La Tour costs $1,000. And maybe that makes sense, in some warped supply and demand way. But it doesn’t make sense that wine that isn’t close to being the world’s greatest costs more than watching a legendary actor or musician. And this, as I have noted many times, does not bode well for wine’s future.

Or, as the wine economist Mike Veseth has warned us: If we keep this up, wine will be like opera, something that interests only the rich and the privileged.

In fact, supply and demand does work for plays and music. It’s one reason why it costs $20 to see a community theater do “Hamlet” and it doesn’t cost more than a cover charge and some beer to watch a local band. There is lots of supply, and not nearly as much demand, compared to stars like Jackson and Timberlake.

So why the divergence between the best wine and the best live shows? The answer, I’m afraid, is that the people who produce the latter want to keep their products affordable. The least expensive tickets for Jackson and Timberlake are about $50, and you can’t get anything close to legendary in wine for $50. If fact, you can buy crappy wine for $50 without any trouble at all. The people behind theater and music understand, in a way wine doesn’t, that the future of their business depends on making it accessible to people who can’t afford the top ticket. In wine, it’s the other way around; if you can’t afford the top ticket, why should we bother with you?

That’s why the pre-teen and teenaged girls who will attend the Timberlake show will be buying his music for the rest of their lives. It doesn’t matter what I think of him, what their parents think of him, or what music critics think of him. It’s why one friend’s daughter, told she couldn’t go to the Timberlake show, has stopped speaking to her mother.

And it’s also why, when you talk to young people about wine, they don’t show anywhere near the same kind of loyalty and enthusiasm. Accessibility is all; otherwise, we’re going to turn into opera.

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5 thoughts on “Expensive wine prices in the real world

  • By Titus - Reply

    I like opera. I shan’t ever spend $1,000 on a bottle of wine (barring Zimbabwe-esque inflation).

    Aren’t you forgetting the Chinese? Isn’t part of the obscenity of high-end wine pricing being driven by enormous demand from millions of nouveaux-riche Chinese who want western luxury commodities, especially if they’re Bordeaux?

  • By Kyle Schlachter - Reply

    You and I both know you can get legendary wine for under $50. Grosses Gewaches German riesling for under $50. Domaine Huet Vouvray for under $50. Aged Riojas under $50… you get the point and I know you agree with me.

    • By Wine Curmudgeon - Reply

      I’m never going to taste a first growth. Ever. And there is a huge difference between the wines you mention, as good as they are and which I enjoy, and a first growth. Or a Grand Cru Burgundy, which I might have tasted a couple of times.

      Those are the wines that were affordable when I started doing this, but aren’t any more. Or, as I like to say, the best wine I’ve ever tasted was a Cheval Blanc, and it was $600. And, as good as it was, I’d never pay that much for it. That’s four Glenda Jacksons.

      • By Kyle Schlachter - Reply

        The only difference is price, not quality, not demand, not supply. Simply price.

  • By Titus - Reply

    That doesn’t make a lick of sense. When a seller sets prices above the level that available demand will support, he ceases to be a seller and becomes a holder of immobile stock. The problem is precisely that there actually exists demand for astronomical wine prices that makes it possible for select vineyards to charge them.

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