Bordeaux fine wines at $1,400 a bottle? Is this wine, or is this ridiculous, label-obsessed conspicuous consumption? The result of the 2009 Bordeaux futures campaign has seen prices of a top handful of chateaus spiral out of sight. As a result, wine drinkers, as distinct from investors, feel they are being priced out of the great Bordeaux market.
Or are they? I’m here to offer hope to lovers of Bordeaux fine wines and a proposal for drinkers who have been scared away.
The recent vintages from Bordeaux fine wines (from 2004 onward) has seen a huge gap open up. The five first growths, a few other estates in the Médoc and a cluster in St.-Émilion and Pomerol—no more than 30 wineries in all—attract all the headlines.
They have also done Bordeaux fine wines a great disservice. “Those top 20–30 wines are no longer the locomotive that drives Bordeaux,” says Ralph Sands, Bordeaux expert at K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, California. “Now they are making people turn away from Bordeaux.”
Once, in the halcyon days of the late 1990s, prices of first growths were twice those of other fine Bordeaux chateaus. In 2009, the price differential is as much as 20 times more (see chart, below). Douglas Bryant, president of Sherlock’s, a group of fine wine stores in Atlanta, says he is seeing an increasing number of people who are turning their backs on these wines, refusing to pay the exorbitant prices.
What is so crazy about headline pricing is that it is easier than ever to get value for money from prestigious appellations in Bordeaux. “People become savvy buyers,” says Bryant. “They look beyond the headlines and realize that most Bordeaux is not expensive.”
Beneath the thin veneer of glamour and high prices, there is great quality. The vintages of the last decade (2002 and 2007 aside) have been a succession of “vintages of the century.” They show that, at this stage of climate change, Bordeaux has been blessed with reliable weather and increasing ripeness. Couple that with some of the best winemaking in the world (yes, really), and it seems hard to go wrong. French consumers call it rapport qualité-prix (quality-price ratio) and they are experts.
Read more at Winemag.com