Tag Archives: wine prices

Winebits 154: Hall of Fame, Asian wine prices, wine terms

? 2011 Vintners Hall of Fame: And it doesn’t include Robert Parker or Fred Franzia, both of whom were nominated. This is silly. Both men, whatever you think of them, have had Hall of Fame careers, and I’ll write more on that later this week. The 2011 inductees will include Ravenswood founder Joel Peterson (subject of a Wine Curmudgeon podcast); UC Davis’ Vernon Singleton; and Bob Trinchero, owner of Sutter Home Winery and Trinchero Napa Valley. Chalone Vineyards winemaker Richard Graff and August Sebastiani will be inducted as Pioneers.

? Exorbitant wine prices: What do you do if you live in China and have too much money? You buy French wine. Decanter reports that Asian bidders paid stratospheric prices in a recent Hong Kong auction. Two cases of 2009 Chateau Lafite, which won’t be bottled until next year, fetched US$68,632. That’s almost six times the estimate. And a case of 2000 Lafite, estimated at US$20,000-30,000, sold for US$71,751. Said one analyst: “There is a lot of money out here, and a lot of demand for good cellars. But even taking that into consideration, those prices were crazy.”

? Feds looking at wine terms: Ever wondered what wine terms like Proprietors Blend, Old Vine, and Reserve mean when they show up on wine labels? The Treasury Department’s Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau, which oversees label regulation, wonders too. It is asking for public comment on whether it needs to write regulations for those terms, as well as several others. You can download the request for comments from the TTB site. It’s Notice No. 109. It’s not too difficult to read, either.

Gary Shansby and the dilemma of wine education

Gary Shansby tells the story with an almost wistful air. A good friend of his, who is smart and wealthy, will only drink Grey Goose vodka. Gary, who owns Partida Tequila, offered to buy his friend a Partida. No thanks, says the friend. I only drink Grey Goose. Can I buy you another kind of vodka? asks Gary. No thanks, says the friend. I only drink Grey Goose.

Why do you only drink Grey Goose? asks Gary. Because it's the best, says his friend. How do you know that? asks Gary. Have you tried any other vodka? No, says the friend. Have you tried my tequila? No, says the friend. Then how do you know that you don't want to try anything else? Because I don't, says the friend. I just know.

Shansby finishes the story and I laugh. He has outlined, neatly, the dilemma facing those of us who do wine education. Yes, this story is about tequila and spirits, and I usually don't do much of that here. But Shansby is also a wine drinker who knows how the business works, and Partida makes some damn fine tequila. I was especially impressed with the blanco (about $45, sample), which had almost nothing to do with the cheap, poorly made tequila that one sees around Dallas.

Besides, the principle is the same, whether we're talking about tequila or pinot noir. It's not enough that wine is confusing. We also have to fight the prejudices that consumers pick up, many of which are fostered on consumers by the companies that sell wine.

"There are so many great wines all over the world — from Chile, from parts of the U.S. — that it's just so confusing to the consumer," says Shansby. "But that also means that they are so many great wines to try at so many attractive prices."

In fact, he says, those attractive prices are going to be around for a while. The recession is the main reason (and he expects its effects to be with us for a long while), which is something we've discussed here many times before. Producers are stuck with unsold wine, with more wine in the production pipeline, so they are cutting prices to move it. Shansby says it won't be unusual to see discounts of 20 to 40 percent. So why not take a chance and experiment? Why not try a wine from a different region than your usual? Why not try a different varietal?

Just don't, says Shansby, let your prejudices make your decisions for you. And who can argue with that.