Tag Archives: wine auctions

How about some $5,000 holiday wine?

holiday wineDig deep, because who wouldn’t want to buy a $5,000 holiday wine?

If you spend $5,000 for a bottle of wine, do you actually drink it? That, to me, would be the most fascinating part about a wine auction next month at Christie’s in New York. Among the variety of rare wines for sale: a red Bordeaux, tthe 1990 Chateau Haut-Brion, expected to fetch between $4,000 and $6,000. And such a deal: it’s a large format bottle, an imperial, the equivalent of eight regular-sized bottles.

We’ve discussed this before on the blog: These auctions, their fantastic prices, and the idea that people who pay this much money for wine don’t necessarily drink it. Instead, they keep it in their cellar and show it off like an Old Masters painting or a rare postage stamp.

A good friend of mine, who associates with a much more Gatsby-esque crowd than the Wine Curmudgeon does, says he once knew someone like that. The guy would invite him over to look at the wine, but not to drink it. My friend, after this happened several times, asked the guy when he was going to open a bottle. “Never,” the guy said. “These aren’t for drinking. They’re for looking.”

Is it any wonder I worry about the future of the wine business?

The other thing worth noting is the price discrepancy between the French and California wines in the auction. The top estimated prices for California are about $600 a bottle, which is about half of the top price for a variety of red Bordeaux and Burgundy. Which makes this about the only place where paying $300 for a bottle of Shafer, a top Napa cabernet sauvignon, can be seen as a bargain.

Photo: “A Great Selection” by toddwight1 is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

The growth of ultra-expensive wine

expensive wineDoes the increasing popularity of ultra-expensive wine mean wine has become a collectible and not something to drink?

The Big Guy, who hangs out with a better class of wine drinker than I do, forwarded me the auction company email: “Can you believe the prices of these wines?” he wrote. The list was expensive wine run amok – impressive labels, certainly, but prices that even I had trouble comprehending:

• $8,500 for a bottle of red Burgundy.

• $1,000 for two bottles of an 1872 Madeira.

• $40,000 for a case of 2000 Petrus, perhaps the Holy Grail of wine collecting.

• $4,750 for a magnun of another red Burgundy.

Which raises a host of questions: Who buys these wines? Do they actually drink them? And, of course, the one that has always fascinated me – how does one justify paying thousands of dollars for a bottle of wine?

Because spending that kind of money happens all of the time. It’s just not auctions, but includes trading on Liv-Ex, a stock exchange for wine. In this, the growth of ultra-expensive wine sales and expensive wine becoming more expensive have been hallmarks of the 21st century wine business. Two decades ago, people bought wine to drink it. Today, more and more people buy wine not to drink it.

This matters for two reasons. First, as these ultra-expensive wines grow in popularity, more resources will be devoted to them. If more resources are devoted to these wines, will less be available for the wine that most of us drink? Second, how healthy can the wine business be when its most prized products are kept in locked vaults? How can the evolution of wine — from something to drink with dinner to a version of coin collecting — be a good thing?

Yes, the sale of ultra-expensive wine remains a small part of the wine business. Those 10 million cases of Barefoot that are sold annually dwarf ultra-expensive wine sales. But how much attention does all that Barefoot get? The hype for ultra-expensive wine dwarfs Barefoot, as well as the rest of the wines that most of us drink. That even I’m writing about it says something – and it’s probably not good.

More about ultra-expensive wine:
Wine as a collectible, and not something we drink
Expensive wine prices in the real world
More about wine prices 2018

Winebits 237: Wine scores, wine auctions, wine pairings

? Decanter goes to 100-point system: Decanter, the British wine magazine, will start scoring wines with the 100-point system in its annual buying guide. ?Introducing the 100-point system is essential as Decanter is now a global magazine with more than half its readership outside the UK, ? said the magazine. This is shocking news, not only because Decanter is giving in to something that continues to lose favor, but because it has always been the most sensible of the Winestream Media (for what that ?s worth). The reason for this, I think, is the Chinese market, which has everyone in the wine business salivating (though there is no truth to the rumor that a Chinese language Wine Curmudgeon will soon launch ? the Wine ju l ot u). The Chinese may not understand the Decanter review, but they ?ll recognize the 100-point system ? another of the legacies the U.S. has given the world, like fast food and Coca-Cola.

? Wine prices slump: Those investments in fine wine continue to look like Florida swamp land. Wine sales at the world ?s top five auction houses were down 25 percent in the first half of 2012, which coincides with the slump in the fine wine stock market. I mention these things not because it ?s actually important, but because anyone who buys wine as an investment instead of drinking it — it's the world's best wine, after all — deserves whatever happens to them. Which, frankly, I kind of enjoy watching.

? Vegetarian food: It ?s summer, it ?s hot, and we ?re eating lighter, which includes vegetarian meals. My pal Dave McIntyre looks at the difficulty of finding wine to go with vegetarian dishes, since it would seem to exclude red wine. Writes Dave: ?On the whole, I ?d say don ?t sweat it so much and feel free to experiment. ? One key ? choose wines from cultures, like Greece and Italy, that do a lot of vegetarian food.