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How Much is Too Much?


Craig Camp
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You find a bargain. A nice rich, complex red wine that costs under $20. For awhile you delight and impress your friends with your great buy.

Then it happens. You open up your Wine Advocate and there it is: your great discovery with a big fat 94 points from Mr. Parker who then raves what a great bargain it is.

The next day your wine costs a few dollars more.

The next month it is $5 more.

When the next vintage comes out it gets another 90+ score and the price doubles.

How much is too much? When does a wine become not just a bad value, but an absurdity.

For instance Roberto Voerzio's Barolo Brunate sold for about $30 less than ten years ago (expensive at the time) today the retail price is well over $150. It is reasonable to assume that his costs of production are about the same. Not to pick on Mr. Voerzio and his wonderful wines because there are a long list of similar situations.

Is there a valid reason to spend more than $100 on a bottle of wine in current release? It is reasonable to assume that at a certain price level it is likely that you can find other wines that cost less that can deliver equal (or more) pleasure. Why do so many insist on spending so much on wine?

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Craig, I know where you are coming from on this.

A few years back we were caught up in all this with Luce 1995. We had started of buying it at £180 a case but a few hundred cases later (and about 4 months) we were paying over £340. And about 6 months further down the line we bought a few bottle at £600 a case!

By this stage everything had got way out of hand and all interest in Luce was re-directed.

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Craig, I know where you are coming from on this.

A few years back we were caught up in all this with Luce 1995. We had started of buying it at £180 a case but a few hundred cases later (and about 4 months) we were paying over £340. And about 6 months further down the line we bought a few bottle at £600 a case!

By this stage everything had got way out of hand and all interest in Luce was re-directed.

Luce is a great example of pricing set for marketing reasons only. They make over 100,000 bottles of Luce - it is not exactly a rarity.

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>>

Craig, personally, as I buy wholesale most of the time, I find it is beyond my budget to pay more than $100 for a single bottle of wine at retail. As I tell all of my friends, I can find at least 2 bottles of wine that would probably be equally as good or better than that $100 bottle. There are just too many darn very good to excellent wines out there in the $50 and under range.

Now this having been written, there are also some way overpriced $50 wines out there as well. I won't get into namimg names but think CA Chard, Cab, Merlot, etc.

By the way, a great subject.

I have never met a miserly wine lover
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After 59 years on this earth, I have acquired the knowledge and experience to be able to divorce myself from the wine pundits and make my own decisions about wine. I am also mentally rooted in the past when it comes to monetary value of wine. In the 60's $6 purchased a nice bottle of wine. I simply do not purchase the wines that get the press and corresponding price increases. I still order futures but of the lesser growths. In today's world, a good review of a wine can cause instant loss of availability and price increase. It is all part of a free economy. I'll pay good money for something I believe is a rarity or has value I can appreciate such as a BA or TBA and once in a great while a wine such as Bollingers' 'Vielle Vines'. -Dick

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After 59 years on this earth, I have acquired the knowledge and experience to be able to divorce myself from the wine pundits and make my own decisions about wine. I am also mentally rooted in the past when it comes to monetary value of wine. In the 60's $6 purchased a nice bottle of wine. I simply do not purchase the wines that get the press and corresponding price increases. I still order futures but of the lesser growths. In today's world, a good review of a wine can cause instant loss of availability and price increase. It is all part of a free economy. I'll pay good money for something I believe is a rarity or has value I can appreciate such as a BA or TBA and once in a great while a wine such as Bollingers' 'Vielle Vines'. -Dick

In the 60's, 1961 Chateau Cheval Blanc cost $6. I drank one last week that a friend had bought for that price.

Mark

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Craig, I know where you are coming from on this.

A few years back we were caught up in all this with Luce 1995. We had started of buying it at £180 a case but a few hundred cases later (and about 4 months) we were paying over £340. And about 6 months further down the line we bought a few bottle at £600 a case!

By this stage everything had got way out of hand and all interest in Luce was re-directed.

Luce is a great example of pricing set for marketing reasons only. They make over 100,000 bottles of Luce - it is not exactly a rarity.

Luce is another example of the Mondavi pricing scheme. Opus One is another example. 20,000 cases a year hardly makes it a rare wine.

Mark

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We are beset with the same problem as regards our local wines in South Africa, albeit on a different plane. Converting the local currency using the Big Mac conversion rate, a bottle of 1198 Zandvliet Kalkveld Shiraz that cost $7 two years ago is now $20. I suppose we are still fortunate in that a really really good local red such as the '96 Ruitersvlei Cab Sauv sells at $25 (at the market exchange rate that would be $17). Still, I suppose it is all relative.

Gerhard Groenewald

www.mesamis.co.za

Wilderness

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In the 60's, 1961 Chateau Cheval Blanc cost $6. I drank one last week that a friend had bought for that price.

There is a pretty funny story in Ruth Reichl's book -- she was supposed to bring a "special" bottle of wine to some fancy dinner (in the 80's, in LA, with Colman Andrews and a bunch of fancy people). She forgot, and had to stop at a bodega on Sunset or something ridiculous like that, where she demanded the guy's most expensive wine. He pulled out something for $30, which she claims not even to have looked at, and everyone was blown away when she whipped out a '61 Cheval Blanc.

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Jeez Craig, your tale rings too true. Look at the price increases for La Spinetta's Starderi barb over the past three years. We're looking at $130-140 retail for a wine that we had at $55 two years ago.

Some producers (Opus One, Silver Oak, etc.) aren't in the wine-making business; they're minting money!

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Jeez Craig, your tale rings too true. Look at the price increases for La Spinetta's Starderi barb over the past three years. We're looking at $130-140 retail for a wine that we had at $55 two years ago.

Some producers (Opus One, Silver Oak, etc.) aren't in the wine-making business; they're minting money!

<>

One can also say the same about many of the 1st and 2nd growth Bordeaux Chateau who produce 10,000 ++ (Latour-30K; Mouton - 30K; Lafite-20K; Margaux- 30K; Lynch-Bages- 45K; Pichon-Lalande-35K; all of these are rough estimates) cases annually at now way too high priced wine for my wallet. I am one of the few here who began buying when they were still relatively cheap( I still have a few 61's and 70's in my cellar). After the 1986 vintage, I said no more will I pay the prices they demand. I have found other regions that offer better bang for the buck and as much or more flavor enjoyment for me.

I have never met a miserly wine lover
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This price spiral can be exhausting, but can also make wine tasting fun.

I used to drink a lot of Californian wines, and drink few now as I feel uncomfortable shelling out for their higher prices. The exhausting part is that when we find bargins, they don't stay that way...so we must keep seeking out other wines. But that is what is fun. As California prices went through the roof as did alot of Bordeaux, it forced me to drink more wines from Italy and France...and that has been an enriching experince.

Ed McAniff

A Taster's Journey

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This price spiral can be exhausting, but can also make wine tasting fun.

I used to drink a lot of Californian wines, and drink few now as I feel uncomfortable shelling out for their higher prices. The exhausting part is that when we find bargains, they don't stay that way...so we must keep seeking out other wines. But that is what is fun. As California prices went through the roof as did a lot of Bordeaux, it forced me to drink more wines from Italy and France...and that has been an enriching experience.

Great point. There are so many great wines now that if you insist on getting ripped off or obsessed with a certain producer -- what happens to your pocketbook is your own fault.

As I have recently been tasting through quite few of the newly released 2000 vintage Barbaresco wines what strikes me is how amazingly high the average quality level is these days.

Once upon a time wines like Gaja were on a totally different level of quality than their competitors -- this is no longer the case.

If you have to have Gaja, Solaia and the others in the world like them don't complain about the cost. You don't have to spend that much to get great wine and if you are unwilling to do your homework or have an open mind you will have to pay the price.

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Many producers are setting the prices of thier wines arbitrarily based on how they want thier wines to perceived in the marketplace. Some wine sellers ( restaurants and retail ) say that they leesen the markup on the higher end wines. I say, why should I cut my profit margin because Mr. Napa Valley winemaker has decided he wants to get $90 a bottle for his wine wholesale . I apply the same markup as I do for a $20 wine. If it doesn't sell, guess what? Not restocking that wine.

I was talking to man who makes and sells high end California wines recently. I asked him if he was concerned with the apparent backlash against high priced California wines. "Not as long as I continue to sell everything I make".

Amazing that you can buy Opus one off of a pallet at Costco, yet people still ooh and ahh and pay huge $ at restaurants.

Somebody is buying these wines ( this applies to some if not most of the others mentioned in previous posts as well ) And as long as they are, prices aren't going to drop.

wine is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy
Ted Cizma

www.cheftedcizma.com

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